Kilkenny and Galway meet this weekend in a Leinster Senior Hurling championship semi-final pairing. Last weekend Dublin saw off Wexford to earn their place in the Leinster hurling final and this weekend’s tie promises to be a cracker.
In Brian Cody’s sixteen seasons as manager of Kilkenny, they have lost only eight championship games and three of those defeats have been at the hands of Galway. While the bookies are placing Kilkenny at 2/5 to beat the Tribesmen on Sunday it goes unspoken that Galway have the potential to beat the Cats; if they turn up on the day.
Galway had a promising league campaign yet almost crashed out of the Leinster championship against Laois at the quarter-final stage. On a day when Laois out-hurled and out-classed Galway for the majority of the seventy minutes the wake-up call only came with ten minutes to go. Should Galway line-out in Tullamore at a similar standard on Sunday the game will be over at half time.
Kilkenny are going into this semi-final with a National Hurling League title and a 5-32 to 1-18 thrashing of Offaly behind them. They were nothing short of rampant against Offaly with eight different players scoring for the Cats in the first half. Henry Shefflin and sharpshooter Richie Power are also back in contention for starting places on the Kilkenny squad.
Galway and Kilkenny met twice in their respective league campaigns and while Kilkenny came out on top on both occasions they only won by three and four points respectively. The 2012 trilogy between the two sides; which comprised of a Leinster final, an All-Ireland final and an All-Ireland final replay, was a high intensity, action packed affair.
The Cats left Croke Park with the silverware in September, however totalling up the tallies for these three games it ends Kilkenny 5-52 (67) to Galway’s 7-45 (66). This merely underlines how close these two rivals are and how anything can happen on Sunday.
Both sides have blooded new players throughout the league. Kilkenny’s Padraig Walsh, Mark Kelly and Brian Kennedy were all handed championship debuts against Offaly, with Walsh and Kelly impressing.
Galway meanwhile have had a wave of new players that were not involved last year. Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn have both shown promise upfront while Padraig Brehony has shown his capabilities at midfield. Galway have their back lines considerably strengthened with Turloughmore brothers Daithí and Ronan Burke; both have shown that they are more than competent in the Galway defence.
While Brian Cody will face the task of deciding the Kilkenny starting fifteen now that they are almost at full strength, the issue of the placement of Joe Canning for Galway is what many hurling followers will be watching out for. Will he start at corner forward or will he be moved further outfield where he’s likely to get more action? The question of free taking also exists; should Conor Cooney who has been slotting over points from placed balls in Canning’s absence continue or should the task be handed to Canning?
Speaking to the Connacht Tribune during the week, Galway manager Anthony Cunningham said;
“We have played Kilkenny three times this year and there was not much between us in any of those matches and I expect the same heading into this semi-final.’
Cunningham also said that Galway ‘are confident and ready for battle and [they] are going to Tullamore to win that game.’
While it is easy to say that Kilkenny will come out on top, given Galway’s shocking performance against Laois, this writer cannot write off the Tribesmen. One thing is for sure Sunday’s clash promises to be an interesting tie.
Will Kilkenny continue on their winning ways and meet Dublin on July 6th? Will Galway use their underdog status and emerge the victors? It’s all to play for.
Throw in at O’Connor Park Tullamore is at 4.00pm.
Amy Forde, Pundit Arena.