ANOTHER weekend of hurling, but with all due respect to Cork and Antrim, everyone is talking about Tipperary and Galway.
I’m not surprised either, we could be talking about the game of the year with these two. There have been some fantastic matches in the past between Tipp and Galway, and some bitter rivalry as well.
They are two teams coming into this game on very level terms too, which makes it even more interesting.
I’ll go to Tipperary first. It’s time for everyone to stop talking about last year’s All-Ireland final loss to Kilkenny and get over it. All the sympathy they’ve been getting since over decisions that went against them, could have contributed to their opening day defeat to Cork in this year’s championship.
People have been telling them they deserved to win the All-Ireland but they had plenty of opportunities and they didn’t take them. Kilkenny had a couple of opportunities and finished them clinically – that was the difference.
Tipperary have to get that game and that result out of their system now.
Against Cork, they didn’t, and it showed; maybe they felt that because they had run Kilkenny so close, and were now being spoken of as the next All-Ireland champions, all they had to do was turn up in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the game was won.
Instead they just didn’t turn up. The only way this side will get last September’s final out of their system is to win it this year – they can start from here. All due respect to both Wexford and Offaly, the two teams Tipperary have beaten since the Cork defeat, those games were both won in the early stages. This will be different.
The problem for Tipp is that some of their star players haven’t been playing as well as they can. I’m talking about the likes of Conor O’Mahony, Shane McGrath and even Lar Corbett.
Those guys have to start showing us why they are rated so highly.
I will also single out Noel McGrath. Even though he’s still only a young lad; he was an All Star last year and hasn’t shown that form in 2010. He needs to pick it up, although to be fair to him, I feel he should be further out the field, wing-forward at least, where he can get on the ball a bit more and show his point-scoring ability.
I’d excuse Eoin Kelly from this – he has done it time after time for Tipperary for the last decade and did it again against Offaly the last time out.
But you can’t always be relying on Eoin Kelly; it’s time that others stepped up with him. A guy who has really impressed me is midfielder Brendan Maher. He is still U21, but he has been Tipp’s most consistent performer this year. What Tipp have to do is win the hard, dirty ball. I’ve said it often here, but it looks to me like this team is trying always for the perfect ball, the perfect score, instead of going out and winning the game.
To Galway. As bad as Tipp were against Cork, I think Galway were absolutely brutal against Kilkenny. They were right to make forward changes for tomorrow because it was in their attack that they really fell down against the All-Ireland champions. Galway need to do one crucial thing – have Joe Canning taking the frees from the start. Canning is a confidence player, and for any forward there’s no greater boost than scoring early and often. I think the fact that he’s been off the frees has affected his overall game. Put him back on duty, even if it’s only inside the 45m line, with Ger Farragher continuing to take the long-range frees. And another thing – put Joe at full-forward and leave him there.
FINALLY, I think Galway should play their half-forward line as a half-forward line. Players must stop going back to their own half-back line and hitting aimless ball up to where they should be. Stay in your position, win the ball, and give it directly into that dangerous full-forward line.
David Burke is back at midfield which is a big plus for Galway, but he needs Ger Farragher to find the form that deserted him against Kilkenny. I think he will too, now that he has Burke back alongside him – these two complement each other very well.
A winner – I think the fact that Tipperary have had two matches to get over the loss to Cork, while this is Galway’s first outing since the loss to Kilkenny, will swing it in towards Liam Sheedy’s men.
And so to the other game. I’m surprised Cork haven’t made more changes, given more youngsters a go, especially in Croke Park. This is a dangerous game for them, but they have enough to win it.
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