There are the goals — an average of over two per game — and then there are the early “markers”.
What Richie Murray did against Brian McEvoy in 2001 was replicated by Fergal Healy in 2005 as he and Derek Lyng tussled with one another at the throw-in, an exchange which sparked an early melee involving eight players.
This past July, the Galway forwards went beyond the laws of the game in the opening minutes to stop Kilkenny defenders at times, Cyril Donnellan and David Burke two players who resorted to cynical play.
Galway, more than Kilkenny, need to set the tone from an early juncture and such a requirement was likely reflected by Brian Cody in his concern about how referee Barry Kelly might perceive his team following their win over Tipperary.
Give Kilkenny a minute’s respite and they’ll take two. The early goal has been the hallmark of most of their All-Ireland successes under Cody.
Anthony Cunningham was a classy hurler but he was a member of one of the most intimidating teams ever. Sylvie Linnane, Pete Finnerty, Sean Treacy ... every one of them were bulwarks.
Committed to the DNA of the county’s All-Ireland winning sides, he’s brought a much-needed physicality back into the psyche of the Galway team.
That attitude was also seen in his preparation of Garrycastle against another team wearing black and amber, Crossmaglen, earlier this year.
The All-Ireland club SFC final replay was a write-off but in the first game at Croke Park the Westmeath team’s determination to bully rather than being bullied was obvious.
So both teams will wire into one another because Galway have to and Kilkenny like to. They may have been taken by surprise in the Leinster decider but the more physical things become tomorrow, the more the Cats are sure to revel in it.
Against Tipperary, Kilkenny weren’t going to be found wanting from the outset for the second time in three games.
Watch how Eoin Larkin shoulders Paul Curran as Aidan Fogarty’s shot flies over the bar in the opening minute.
Look at the early melees — by diffusing Tipperary’s pent-up aggression and avenging designs from last year’s final defeat Kilkenny succeeded in setting the pitch of the game.
Tomorrow will be different in that the roles are reversed and it will be Kilkenny who are expected to come quickest out of the traps. Galway won’t turn the other cheek but their intensity must be used as much as a shield as a sword in containing their opponents.
In those opening 10 minutes, the match-ups will also reveal themselves. Kilkenny look more flexible in that area. For all the silly talk about there being no tactics in hurling, Cody will likely give at least three of his defenders briefs to follow certain Galway forwards.
Clearly, he learned the mistakes of the 2010 final and the first indication of that change of policy came against Wexford in a Leinster semi-final last year when four of the back-line played in positions different to those in which they were named.
Brian Hogan won’t be pushed away from centre-back although Andy Smith enjoyed his time running at him in the Leinster final.
Jackie Tyrrell should again man-mark Joe Canning as much as he knows he is a completely different prospect than Lar Corbett.
The Portumna man will stand his ground and with the deft touch here and there can create space for himself, not to mention an ability to win his own ball in the air.
Behind closed doors, Cody will have concocted a scheme. Don’t for one second think that they shrouded themselves last week because of distractions.
Yes, as Brian Hogan said, Spanish students in Nowlan Park have been known to put off some players (cheering wides) but there had been too many prying eyes in the Cats’ lair.
The whistle will have been spared in recent training games as Cody conditions his team for the punishment that will come their way as much as readying them to dish it out too.
Referee Kelly will want to exert his control early. Expect words with the captains at the throw-in but let there be no doubt that there will be fireworks for starters.
The duel everybody is talking about in both counties. The James Stephens man lost the last bout but, as he has shown against Tipperary ever since the 2010 All-Ireland final, he doesn’t make a habit of repeat defeats.
Recognising Lar Corbett’s strength is his ability to ghost around defenders and anticipate breaks, Brian Cody instructed Tyrrell in last year’s final to never let him out of his sight.
Indeed, so fascinated was Cody by their battle that he didn’t take his eyes off them for the first 10 minutes.
Will he be so absorbed by what Tyrrell does with Canning tomorrow? Perhaps not. Canning is a physical equal of the Kilkenny defender, able to beat him in the air and shrug off his attentions to create space for himself.
Wherever Canning goes, Tyrrell is likely to follow, but he can expect Galway’s marquee forward to stand up to him.
Tannian’s physicality was hugely influential in the Leinster final. Colin Fennelly felt the full wrath of the forward-turned-midfielder as he threw his weight around the centre with great effect. Tomorrow, he faces his greatest test against Fennelly’s older brother, who was missing through injury back in July. The reigning Hurler of the Year was badly missed that day and he has more athleticism than Tannian, capably juggling between defence and attack. Tannian is more of a lateral mover, winning and offloading ball and letting his midfield partner Andy Smith run at defences. Earlier in the year, his switch from the forwards was queried just as Fergal Moore’s move to the full-back line. But Tannian’s sheer size is exactly what Galway needed in the middle where they had been so lightweight in the past. Fennelly, though, has more arrows in his quiver and, providing he is fully fit, should rule the roost in the engine room.
Would you have Tommy Walsh in your All Star team right now? The Tullaroan great was excellent against Limerick but had a poor Leinster final and, for all the criticism of Tipperary, was quiet until the end of the semi-final. The word from the Galway camp is that Donnellan, an early candidate for Hurler of the Year, isn’t motoring as well as he had been after picking up his arm injury. It’s primed to be an intriguing battle, with Donnellan next to Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher in his ability to annoy defenders. Walsh, though, has a fantastic ability to rise to most challenges and will look at this stage as the opportunity to open the shoulders after being shackled by Pa Bourke and Lar Corbett. Tipperary’s tactic was a backhanded compliment to him but Galway won’t be paying as much respect, knowing Donnellan bagged 1-10 in the Leinster SHC and they can’t afford to blunt his scoring threat.
Compiled by John Fogarty