Home GAA Galway’s Lethal Forward Line Can Exploit Tipperary’s Struggling Defence

Galway’s Lethal Forward Line Can Exploit Tipperary’s Struggling Defence

Everyone knows of Galway’s ability to deal with expectations, but one thing is clear, they have an exceptional array of talent in their forward division. With everyone talking about Tipperary’s struggling full-back lineGalway should be primed to exploit this even further.

The Tribesmen have played three championship games in 2017 and have racked up tallies of 2-28, 0-33 and 0-29 respectively. Rarely will a team fail to win a game of hurling with these scoring rates, and a further look back notes that Galway hit 3-21 when they last faced Tipperary in the league final back in April.

That means that in Galway’s last four competitive outings, they have failed to reach over thirty points on only one occasion, and on that day they managed to put 0-29 on the board. The amount of players contributing to the score board in those four games were eight, ten, nine and eight. All numbers here make for impressive reading.

Allianz Hurling League Division 1A Semi-Final, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick 16/4/2017 Limerick vs Galway Galway's Conor Whelan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Most hurling teams are happy to have one marquee forward with two or three providing able assistance. Then a closer look at the Galway squad identifies eight players capable of being the ‘main man’ in attack;

  1. Joe Canning
  2. Jason Flynn
  3. Conor Cooney
  4. Joseph Cooney
  5. Niall Burke
  6. Conor Whelan
  7. Cathal Mannion
  8. Jonathan Glynn

David Burke whilst playing midfield is another regular and significant supplier of scores while their bench has seen Shane Moloney, most notably in 2015, and Thomas Monaghan add even more depth and a greater threat to the Tribesmen attack.

There is no other team out there with such an array of attacking options. The depth of their talent in the forward line is clear for all to see. And it is a facet long associated with Galway teams when we highlight other names like Damien Hayes, Cyril Donnellan, Alan Kerins, Ger Farragher, Kevin Broderick, Eugene Cloonan.

Semi Final Galway 21/8/2005 Ger Farragher celebrates scoring Mandatory Credit©INPHO/Tom Honan

But the difference this year seems to be the balance that Micháel Donoghue has found. Balance could be used in two separate means. Balance in terms of personnel and balance in an athletic sense. Seeing this Galway team up close is an eye opener for anybody, when one sees the sheer physical size of them.

But this group of hurlers are not just big men, these are athletic hurlers. The balance has been found between bulk, strength, pace, power, speed and skill. This Galway attack is capable of playing a number of ways due to its balance of athletic and hurling attributes.

The balance of personnel has also been established. The much publicised Joe Canning is finally being used most effectively as a half-forward. He is the focal point of the attack, the commander in chief, who orchestrates operations.

Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Quarter-Final, O'Connor Park, Tullamore, County Offaly 28/5/2017 Galway vs Dublin Galway’s Joe Canning Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

He brings other players into the game while contributing to the scoreboard and his multi-disciplined threat is making all defences think twice, probably more, about how best to handle his overall threat.

But the Galway attack is now so much more than Canning with all players being able to win their own ball, run at players, strike comfortably from both sides and take to the field knowing that an inability to perform will lead to a capable enforcement being sprung from the bench.

Another notable aspect of the Galway forward line is that all are now comfortable playing in each of the six forward positions. This versatility adds to their individual and collective attacking threat.

Everything in their armour for this Sunday should point to Galway, not only focusing on their own strengths, but also looking to expose Tipperary’s weakness, their defence.

Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Quarter-Final, O'Connor Park, Tullamore, County Offaly 28/5/2017 Galway vs Dublin Galway’s Conor Cooney celebrates scoring a goal Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

The league final was the day when Tipp’s weaknesses became apparent and the championship campaign has done little to upset what is becoming the narrative.

Ronan Maher was exposed in the league final and lightning struck twice when Cork’s Conor Lehane ran and dragged Maher out of his comfort zone. James Barry, who people forget is a converted half-back has struggled at both full and corner back this season. Cathal Barrett is not on the panel and Michael Cahill has found himself out of favour.

Whenever Clare or Cork took a direct, route one, approach, chaos occurred in the Tipp backline and goals were conceded. And when the likes of Conor Lehane and Conor McGrath ran at the Premier defence, they also looked suspect.

Put Galway names on those players and there is little to suggest that the same can, or will, not happen again.

On reflection, it appears that Cork stole Galway’s template in how to beat Tipperary. Now the question on Sunday will solely be around the Tribesmen’s ability to cope with expectations.

There is no doubt that Galway have the ability to expose Tipp’s defence. The one difference in personnel from a Tipp perspective will be the presence of Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher whose physicality will be key to drying up the supply of ball going into the Galway forwards.

But Galway need to focus on themselves and their own attack. They have set their own standard for 2017, and that is what they need to maintain to get into yet another All-Ireland final.

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Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man where we preview the All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Tipperary and Galway.

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