Galway and Clare face off later this afternoon in what will be an intriguing contest. In what is expected to be a very close encounter, will the deciding battle be the battle between top marksmen Tony Kelly and Joe Canning?
A sunny day in Thurles is expected and a decent crowd are set to pay their way through the gates of Semple Stadium for an intriguing double-header. The second game is arguably the bigger tie and after the war of words between Ger Loughnane and Galway, the stage is set for a fascinating contest.
On their day, Tony Kelly and Joe Canning are Clare and Galway’s most influential players. In what is expected to be a very close tie, the battle between Kelly and Canning could be the deciding battle.
Galway’s top marksman will look to improve on his Leinster final display. The Portumna man slotted over six placed balls but failed to score from play on what was a disappointing day for Canning and the Tribesmen.
The positioning of Canning by the Galway management will be interesting. The way Clare set up will leave space at a premium in Galway’s attacking sector. Therefore, Canning will need to be positioned where he is of most threat to the Clare goal and that is at full-forward.
Clare’s use of Cian Dillon as a sweeper will test Canning’s resolve and ability to take the few chances that will come his way. For Galway, it is vital that he performs to his potential.
As for Clare, it is Tony Kelly who they will look to provide inspiration. The Ballyea man has re-discovered his form of 2013 which saw him crowned Hurler of the Year and Young Hurler of the Year.
The Galway defence will have a tough job keeping tabs on the athletic left-half-forward who has linked up magnificently with Podge Collins to date, in this summer’s championship.
With Conor McGrath out through injury, there is an added responsibility on Kelly’s shoulders to get the Banner over the line.
The Ballyea man has taken over the free taking duties in the absence of McGrath and will go head-to-head directly with Joe Canning in the free-taking stakes. In what is anticipated to be a very close game, every score will be crucial and the pressure is on both Canning and Kelly to nail every opportunity that comes their way in terms of frees.
While both Kelly and Canning will look to their fellow team-mates for inspiration and support, a superb individual performance from either Tony Kelly or Joe Canning can sway this tie in one county’s favour.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena