Preview: Leinster SHC Final - Kilkenny v Galway
Sunday July 3
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Final
Kilkenny v Galway, Croke Park, 4pm
By Cian O'Connell
Kilkenny know all about the cautionary tales. All Ireland semi-finals in 2001 and 2005 and the Leinster decider of 2012 top the Kilkenny list: all featured daring and dynamic Galway performances.
What happened in those matches mean Kilkenny will respect the Galway challenge. When the mood strikes and the play is fluid and loose Galway’s forwards can do damage.
Still the Cats will recall how they suffocated Galway in the second half of last year’s All Ireland Final. It was a cruel reminder for Galway about the distance they still have to travel.
A winter of discontent followed, but new manager Micheal Donoghue was always aware that the most revealing matches would be played in high summer.
That time has arrived. Donoghue has spoken about not letting relegation from Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League to ‘define’ Galway’s campaign.
Galway can be classy, but the issue Donoghue wants to rectify is consistency. Clarinbridge native Donoghue is firmly focused on ensuring Galway maintain a high level under his stewardship.
“I think there's no hidden secret in it that we want to make Galway a more consistent team, particularly in their performance and that's regardless of who they play so we're happy the way things are going,” Donoghue commented.
Against Westmeath and Offaly did precisely what was required winning matches that they were expected to with a fair degree of comfort.
In dreadful weather conditions the Leinster semi-final offered a demanding start, but Galway recovered to earn victory.
The form of Joseph Cooney and Conor Cooney in attack is encouraging, especially considering the St Thomas’ attacker, ravaged by injuries in 2015, had his red card overturned.
Both of those attackers are self-sufficient, capable of claiming possession under pressure so Galway are hopeful about making an impact at GAA headquarters.
Kilkenny, though, are completely aware of what Galway can do. To illustrate his point Paul Murphy speaks about the 2012 provincial decider. “Everyone is talking about Waterford, Clare, and Tipperary and all of this,” Murphy remarked.
“But, you know, Galway were the team that got to the All-Ireland last year and were going well.
“And Galway every year upset someone and have really big performances.
“It's just a matter of being ready for the Leinster Final because in 2012 they just blew us off the pitch and we don't want that happening again this year.”
Kilkenny’s third quarter power play took care of Dublin at Portlaoise last month so Brian Cody’s charges are seeking to land a 16th provincial crown since 1998.
It is a remarkable success story, and with Galway travelling to the capital armed with hope and quiet expectation too - an interesting encounter beckons.