The Galway hurlers have lost their tag of invincibility, according to former Tribes boss John McIntyre.
The All-Ireland champions should have had last Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final wrapped up by half-time, McIntyre insisted, and is concerned the multitude of injuries picked up at Croke Park will hamper Micheál Donoghue’s side in Sunday’s replay.
With Cork exiting the championship last weekend, Galway are the last remaining team who have yet to be beaten this summer. The recent stalemates with Kilkenny and Clare, mind you, suggest the chasing pack is closing in on the reigning champions.
“Though it took a brilliantly-crafted point from Clare sub Jason McCarthy to deny Galway a place in the All-Ireland final for the third time in four years, the Tribesmen have now been holed below the waterline as well as losing the tag of invincibility which hung around them in the early stages of the championship," wrote McIntyre, who managed Galway from 2009-11, in today’s Connacht Tribune.
"The drawn Leinster final indicated Micheál Donoghue’s charges weren’t bombproof; last Saturday confirmed it.
“Life has become more complicated in defence of their All-Ireland crown and if Galway come out on top in this weekend’s replay, they won’t have the luxury of the same recovery time as final opponents Limerick.
“Galway’s injury woes are both untimely and troublesome, as well. It remains to be seen how compromised the fitness of Gearóid McInerney and Joe Canning is, while the strain put on Daithí Burke’s injured ankle couldn’t have aided his recovery.”
McIntyre, a former Tipperary hurler, still maintains that Galway are a “better team” than the Banner, but knows the latter will head to Thurles in buoyant form having caused the Tribesmen endless problems last weekend.
He said: “Galway are still a better team than Clare but that is no guarantee of success in the replay as their neighbours will have gained massive belief from last Saturday’s comeback.
“Furthermore, how much energy and hunger are left in the Galway tank? Last weekend’s marathon semi-final was hugely draining, both mentally and physically, while the injuries are starting to take their toll.
"Ahead of the drawn game, I was certain Galway would win; ahead of the replay, I only think it.”
Returning to the first instalment, which finished 1-30 apiece after extra-time, McIntyre labelled “unacceptable” Galway’s first-half shooting.
“Galway must be kicking themselves for not putting Clare away in the first-half - and they had more than enough chances to do so. A tally of a dozen wides for 35 minutes hurling is unacceptable for the champions and they could have paid an almighty heavy price for it. When Shane O’Donnell put Clare two up in the second period of extra-time, Galway were on the brink of being beaten.
“In the circumstances, their players deserve a massive amount of credit for responding to the challenge with Jonathan Glynn emerging a pivotal figure in this period. By that juncture, Galway had lost Gearóid McInerney, Joe Canning, Adrian Tuohey and Conor Whelan for various reasons, but their hearts and minds remained admirably strong.
“Clare had their misses, too, and the first period of extra-time will haunt them, but Galway should never have allowed the match to get that far.
"They had the Banner players by the throat and in utter disarray in the opening quarter. Yet, we can’t be too hard on them as we have seen right through the championship that even double-figure leads are no longer safe.”