PM O'SULLIVAN: Great minds in endless quest to crack Cats’ code

DRIFTER: Might Galway's Joe Canning turn Kilkenny's plans upside down by drifting outfield to marshal Richie Hogan in the All-Irelandhurling final in Croke Park on Sunday?

A summer entertainment has been observing Dónal Óg Cusack and Liam Sheedy conduct an Open University course ‘How To Beat Kilkenny’ on The Sunday Game.

Much enjoyed, mind. Having watched this programme for 35 years and more, I recall no equivalent moments in the past. Kilkenny really must be special if RTÉ is gone providing tutorials on best practice for overthrow.

Wanting these champions defeated is a desire that can make Miley Cyrus seem demure. If they retain, the backlash will make twerking look like ‘The Walls Of Limerick’.

Which is grand. It took aeons of evolution to produce Donald Trump, supreme serene in assessment and next President of Amerikay. We should not expect over much of hurling punditry.

That summer course’s emphasis? Man-mark Richie Hogan. Hub and nub and rub.

I wonder. Professor Cusack speaks as if said task were akin to activating Scalextric models.

For Galway, there are two main possibilities. First, they could push up a defender when Hogan drifts outfield, hurling like a quarter-back, needling sutures between defence and attack.

This approach leaves five defenders on five forwards. Crux: so long as Kilkenny’s two remaining half-forwards stay wide, there would be mucho space in front of full-forward. Do Galway chance the ghosting of Séamus Callanan recent past?

Second, they could detail someone from front eight as velcro for Hogan. Does midfielder Andy Smith get briefed, with a forward moving out in his place?

This approach allows Kilkenny a spare defender. They would probably elect Cillian Buckley, a Hurler of the Year candidate. The corollary is a drop in the Westerners’ goal threat.

Convincing idea?

Galway would also have a spare defender. Íarla Tannion, likely enough. Based on action this season, who is more likely to funnel scoring clearances, Buckley or Tannion?

The answer is surely obvious.

A twinge in my gut asks whether management might use Joe Canning, from centre forward, as a minder. He could form a duo of sorts with Smith.

Meaning: Canning spoils Hogan, deep lying centre-forward neutralising deep lying centre-forward. Mirroring was twigged as reasonable gambit when deploying a corner-forward as a third midfielder counted as the acme of sophistication.

Canning can despatch keen ball from those precincts, even if 2015’s radar has produced static on the wides front. Item: the wonderful angled delivery to Shane Maloney that beat Tipperary.

Canning would be strong enough to trouble the deceptive Hogan. If Cyril Donnellan and Jonathan Glynn launch on the wings, this splice should ensure bountiful possession at half-forward.

Inside, Conor Whelan goes full-forward for a spell. Lefthander on lefthander, Whelan might tickle the parts of Joey Holden not reached by Joe Canning.

Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion remain minatory corner men. Kilkenny’s new full-back line is not proven until it is proven.

Great minds in endless quest to crack Cats’ code

Same time, you could pebble dash with caveat. Both man-marking schemas presume the opposition have not budgeted for these scenarios. Kilkenny in 2015 decided on fresh emphases, preferring to work wings and channels, unless threading Richie Hogan’s needle, over middle ways.

Besides, they need not run Scalextric passive. Success rarely derives from doing the expected. Meaning: different questions are required than applied for the Leinster Final. Coincidentally or not, the team that changed for last September’s All-Ireland replay won out.

Forward configuration, this Sunday, is moot. Word that Richie Power will be fit is serious fillip. If nothing else, Power is an expert full-forward, freeing Richie Hogan and TJ Reid for simultaneous half-forward service at some stage.

Meanwhile, Galway expect severest challenge to reside in containing Hogan at centre-forward and Reid at full-forward. Calculation wise, their stickiest burr is Hogan’s peregrinations from 11. Reid’s fetching at 14 is scarcely less adhesive. The challengers’ training calibrated these expectations.

Logic ravels on. Should Kilkenny meet Galway expectations in the first half? Or can they force the issue by changing the issues? Nobody is obliged to stasis so as to oblige the Open University.

Kilkenny have intriguing options. Adept under high deliveries, Hogan could take up full-forward, with Walter Walsh and Eoin Larkin beside him.

Galway would mightily fear Hogan on square’s edge. He is a far more natural full-forward than Reid. They might hold Hogan out the field but not inside, with Reid feeding ball from wing-forward. Management picked match-ups based on Hogan at 11 and so would be thrown by Hogan at 14.

This Kilkenny splay sees half-forward become Ger Aylward (effective there against Waterford), Colin Fennelly (who will graft like Moses) and TJ Reid (on whom Aidan Harte, in a Gort jersey, struggled last February). Walsh, on whom Johnny Coen has never redeemed 2012, strikes me as far more dangerous in the full-forward line. His decision making at wing-forward is suspect.

None of these considerations alter the contest’s core truth: Galway are plenty capable. Defensive prowess against the Tipperary attack, Séamus Callanan excepted, deserves salute. Joe Canning could become a forest fire, same as Callanan blazed in the semi-final.

Down to it, Galway will have to go hip to hip, workrate to workrate, hoping to stride the blast. There is no other way, whatever the tutorials. The high road will be the elemental road. Luck with refereeing - Galway have five red card candidates - would broaden their prospects into majestic.

Still and all, maybe truest co-ordinate is that the counties have already met in 2015. The nub may be hiding in prior sight.

Back in July, Kilkenny had seven points to spare, 1-25 to 2-15. Nobody claimed afterwards the margin was flukey or misrepresentative, 26 scores to 17 scores.

That afternoon, Kilkenny pressed Walter Walsh into service as an emergency midfielder in Michael Fennelly’s absence. Walsh did not thrive. Fennelly fit would be serious fillip. He was magnificent against Waterford.

Yes, every hedge applies when player fitness wavers. Kilkenny’s wriggle room with subs is getting for Greece’s wriggle room with debt. There are plenty of swerves in which Galway win (and even win well, such is their aptitude with points from distance).

Allow those fillips, though. How much hotter will Kilkenny be than July? Three points of an improvement?

All told, you would imagine so.

Logic speeds: can Galway advance ten points on the Leinster final? They have improved a ton and should improve further in two days’ time. But still some gap, heel of punt?

You would say as much, sober side. Maybe five points, race rubbed and race run and course concluded.


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