Sport loves an unsung hero or a surprise package. In hurling terms Shane O’Donnell is the name that springs to many people’s minds. He wasn’t a complete unknown to all, having scored goals against Waterford, Wexford and Laois earlier that season, but his 3-3 haul in the 2013 All-Ireland hurling final replay is what he is remembered for.
The fairytale story of Clare winning an All-Ireland title was added to by the fairytale story of a 19-year-old that failed to see any significant game time in that year’s All-Ireland semi-final or drawn All-Ireland final.
Stories like Kevin McManamon’s substitute cameo in 2011 for the Dublin footballers, scoring the all important goal and winning the game clinching free, are the lines that nostalgia novices love to hear.
There are further examples. Walter Walsh hit 1-3 for the Kilkenny hurlers in 2012 All-Ireland final replay, Cathal Naughton nails a goal and a point for the Cork hurlers in the semi-final of 2006, Shane Moloney knocked over the winning point for Galway in the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final against all the odds and the much maligned Timmy McCarthy starred for Cork in the 1999 All-Ireland final.
These unsung heroes or these players that few expect to be the game changers have this uncanny ability to add to any sporting occasion. These are the individuals that fans desire and add so much to what can potentially be great days on their own merits.
This Sunday’s first All-Ireland semi-final is being pitted as the heavyweight clash of the hurling scene as things stand.
Galway and Tipperary sees the defending champions take on the form team of 2017. 2016 saw Tipperary win their first All-Ireland in six years, but it was emphatic nonetheless. Only one team pushed Tipperary to the limit last year, and that team was Galway.
Tipperary began the 2017 season in equally impressive fashion. All went to plan up until the league final. There they met Galway, and the Tribesmen did to Tippereary, what Tipperary had done to almost every county in sight back in 2016.
This Sunday’s game is littered with top quality hurlers, particularly the superstar names in the respective forward divisions. Names like Seamus Callanan, Bubbles O’Dwyer, John McGrath, Noel McGrath, Joe Canning, Conor Cooney, David Burke, Cathal Mannion amongst others are the box office names that hurling followers want to see go hammer and tongs in Croke Park.
This Sunday sees the two strongest attacks in Ireland go to battle. When assessing Galway’s forwards in a recent piece, it was alerted that their last four competitive games have seen them fail to hit the 30 point mark once, and that day they scored 0-29.
The Tipperary forward line speak for themselves. There are few better sights in hurling than watching the Tipp forward sextant in full flow. The pace that they fizz the ball at each other being accompanied by exquisite movement and first touch being added to by clinical finishing can only be admired by all.
But above all of the talent that has been mentioned, there is a name that could possibly grab more headlines than all come Sunday evening or Monday morning. That name is Jonathan Glynn.
Having left the Galway panel at the end of 2015 season to depart for the United States, Glynn has made a bit part return to the Galway panel for the 2017 season. He came on as a substitute in the league final and has now returned to the fold prior to this Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
His part-time role in the panel makes it highly unlikely that he will start on Sunday. Injury has also curtailed his involvement, but could Glynn be the man Micháel Donoghue springs from the bench with 10-15 minutes remaining, with the game in the melting pot?
His ball winning and directness really compliment his empowering physical presence. When Galway faced Tipp in 2014, Glynn caused all sorts of trouble, scoring two goals and all but finishing Padraic Maher’s time playing in the full-back position.
Glynn can be used as a target man from puckouts in the half-forward line or a target man at full-forward to allow Galway to play direct and test out Tipp’s under fire full-back line.
Glynn has demonstrated his finishing ability before. The All-Ireland final replay of 2012 and the quarter-final of 2015 spring to mind straight away.
Sunday presents a great opportunity for Glynn to be the surprise package or the unsung hero. Few are talking about his potential invovlement on Sunday.
It may yet prove that he doesn’t even feature. But there is that chance that despite being forgotten by many, Glynn could be a hot topic of conversation at the end of this weekend
Check out our GAA podcast, The 16th Man ahead of a busy weekend of action in Croke Park.