Conor Neville: Magic space on edge of square

We’re still punch drunk from the latest round of Galway hurling cliche bingo… consistency.... never know which Galway will turn up… can they put two performances back to back… where should they play Joe Canning?

Conor Neville: Magic space on edge of square

The last question (where to leave Joe?) is asked incessantly these days. You could say it has been the major question of our time in the last few years.

It’s written into pundits’ contracts that they must take a view on it and they must voice that view on air.

It’s got to the stage where a constitutional amendment may be required to settle the matter. One half expects a petition to be launched soon asking the government to put the matter to the people.

The populists insist Joe be plonked on the edge of the square and left there. They cite honest to goodness, bread and butter arguments to back up this thesis. “That’s the danger zone, he’s the man to get goals for them, he’ll do no damage out in midfield,” etc.

In any prospective referendum, the side advocating this position would likely win a landslide.

Hurling’s small band of contrarian intellectuals say he is too easily crowded out in there and needs to be allowed drift into the half-forward line. Their rather earnest, clever-clever explanations tend to get short shrift from the masses.

The truth is Canning has had both good and bad days in both these slots in the last few years. In all probability, he will only prosper properly in either position when Galway develop other weapons in the forward line.

Yesterday, Canning was one of the more subdued Galway forwards as the attention was hogged by the emerging Cathal Mannion and the workhorse Cyril Donnellan, both of whom enjoyed impressive games — though Donnellan could have moderated his ‘shoot on sight’ policy.

Canning had a shaky day. A couple of frees went wide and he missed one chance towards the end of the first half in which the space was such that it might as well have been a placed ball.

Canning’s reputation make these misses worse. Their psychological effects seem deeper. One can hear the ripples joy amid the ranks of opposing support. The muttering of the iconoclasts suggesting the Portumna golden boy ‘isn’t all that’ grows louder.

It’s clear the pressure needs to ease on the man. Galway supporters should be urging a moratorium on all Joe Canning-related discussion for the rest of the season.

Galway’s points problem

Galway showed what casual observers might deem ‘uncharacteristic’ resolve to claim a draw against the Dubs. That they did so with the aid of the only goal of the game is not surprising. For the seventh championship game in a row, Galway conceded more points than they scored. Intriguingly, in all bar two of those games, they have scored more goals than their opponents, but have only won one match in that time, and that a cheek-reddening two-point win over Laois last year.

Here’s the sequence:

Dublin 2-25 Galway 2-13, 2013 Leinster Final

Clare 1-23 Galway 2-14, 2013 QF

Laois 0-23 Galway 1-22, 2014 LR1

Kilkenny 3-21 Galway 5-15, 2014 LSF

Kilkenny 3-19 Galway 1-17, 2014 LSFR

Tipperary 3-25 Galway 4-13, 2014 Q

Dublin 0-20 Galway 1-17, 2015 LSF

Cunningham appears to favour Johnny Glynn types over the Kevin Broderick identikits (not that there are many of him around) Galway used to specialise in. The effect seems to have been that Galway regularly create havoc in the opposing goalmouth, manufacturing goal chances but lack a wide spread of scoring forwards able to hit points further out the field.

Time for amalgamations beyond the pale?

Colm O’Rourke wants the crusty old antiquated provincial system torn down and presumably replaced by some sort of ‘Champions League style format’, the 21st century’s answer to the ‘open draw’.

But why not be even more radical than that? We could see the resurfacing of a proposal David Brady raised, to near universal opprobrium, on Off the Ball a few years ago.

After watching Mayo slaughter Leitrim in the Connacht championship — the scoreline was something similar to Croke Park yesterday — Brady suggested Leitrim think about amalgamating with a nearby county (say Longford) to cobble together a reasonably competitive outfit.

Both counties bristled at the suggestion.

Brady could have gone on to point out that the county boundaries were drawn up a few hundred years ago by knighthood bearing imperialist jobsworths in Whitehall and that therefore it was odd that an organisation such as the GAA would cleave itself so closely to them.

In the wake of the depressing scenes in Croke Park yesterday, could such a proposal gather steam?

It would fit well with O’Rourke’s proposal to revive a Tommy Murphy-style competition. Longford could compete as ‘Longford’ in that competition, and then the best Longford players could play for the amalgamated entity in the elite championship.

The ‘split Dublin movement’ has at least got a hearing in the media (even if many have understandably treated it as an affront). Why not this proposal?

Either way, the notion that a county like Longford should be taking on Dublin in the championship may have been fatally weakened yesterday.

TV Watch: O’Rourke lets loose on Leinster

Typically, RTÉ pundits wait until at least half-time before affecting to sound fed up.

But the air was thick with disenchantment before the ball was even thrown in for the Longford-Dubs game yesterday.

Suited up marketing executives from other jurisdictions would have been rubbing their eyes. The consensus was David’s victory over Goliath wasn’t such a big ask compared to what Longford faced. Colm O’Rourke threw himself into the task. He warmed up by describing the Leinster Championship as a ‘farce’.

At half-time, he reiterated his central point that the Leinster championship was ‘a joke’. Before he said anything about the game, he made sure the viewers got that point.

There followed another debate about structures. In a nutshell, O’Rourke wants the provincial championships dumped and Spillane doesn’t.

Full marks to Spillane for incorporating the phrase ‘Champions League style format’ which is now very much part of GAA terminology. Although his idea of building a champions league style format within the existing provincial structures is a new one.

Tweets of the week


If I was a child from Longford or Dublin brought to Croke Park for a day out, I’d go home and ask for a tennis racket for my birthday. #GAA


Enjoyed watching the public execution of Longford there.


I find it hard to accept the #Dublin - #Galway hurling match is curtain-raiser at Croke Park today. Should be top billing #GAAMatchOfTheDay


A Corkman has just introduced a Kerryman into the Dublin team against Galway in the Leinster Championship. Yep, that just happened.


Longford may get hammered, but we don’t want a competition for just weak teams

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