Which Galway will turn up?
This is often the question before a Galway hurling game. On their day, no team in Ireland can live with them. Other days, they can be shambolic. Last week, we saw both the Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde of Galway hurling. Early on in the second half, they hit the self-destruct button, and let the Cats run riot. But in the last ten minutes, they reeled Kilkenny in with a tour de force. Everything clicked for them, and they soon resembled the team that won the Leinster Championship and reached the All-Ireland Final in 2012. But the question always remains; which Galway will turn up?
How will Kilkenny fare at centre-back?
Last week, Jackie Tyrell was the one charged with the unenvious task of marking Joe Canning. Tyrell is a player with nothing left to prove at the top level, but he was out of his depth at number six, guarding the country’s top marksman. It was no mere coincidence that when Galway resurged, everything was played through Canning at 11. The goals started flowing. Brian Cody introduced Brian Hogan, but it was a case of too little, too late. The ‘Joe-Show’ was in town. However, there are question-marks surrounding Hogan too. Kilkenny will need to have the right man in place to close up this channel in Tullamore.
How good are the Cats?
The League champions swept away Offaly without ever really being challenged. The first half was tense last week, and on the surface, it was the Kilkenny of old, moving up the gears in the second half. However, reading between the lines, Galway switched off. Under each dropping ball, there were two Cats against one Tribesman. Galway were not outclassed, they were simply asleep. However, Kilkenny were tactically aware when Galway woke back up. Suddenly it was a case of Galway operating at a pace which Kilkenny could not live with. Kilkenny are not the force they once were. But exactly how good are they? Saturday will offer an indication.
Verdict: This is a game both teams are afraid to lose. The winner has a date with Dublin in the Leinster Final; a more attractive prospect than a trip to Thurles next week to meet Tipperary. As always with Galway, it’s hard to call. Kilkenny by 3.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.