Galway forward Cyril Donnellan admits that halting Tipperary’s high-scoring attack will be a difficult task for Micheál Donoghue’s side this weekend.
Galway and Tipp meet in the All-Ireland SHC semi-final for the second year in a row at Croke Park on Sunday, with memories of some recent high-scoring battles fresh in the mind.
Tipp came out on the wrong side of last year’s last-four clash, despite Premier forward Séamus Callanan hitting a whopping personal tally of 3-9.
And Tipp have been on fire this summer, with Michael Ryan’s men firing in 8-53 over the course of their Munster campaign, claiming the provincial title with a lop-sided 21-point win over Waterford when four of their starting forwards were on the mark.
Callanan will again be the centre of attention out west, the two-time All-Star has racked up 2-25 in three championship outings after recovering from a broken finger.
“He’s carried his form into this year,” noted Donnellan. “I think he had a break in his hand and he missed a bit of hurling and then he came back and he looked as fresh as ever.
“I suppose top players can do that. We’ve seen it with Kilkenny as well - Richie Hogan was out for a period of time and he came back straight in.
“I think he [Callanan] has got a bit more help obviously. When you look at the Munster final, there’s more and more forwards able to contribute to the Tipp attack so they’re a free-scoring team and they will take a lot of work to try and stop.”
Galway came out the wrong side of a tit-for-tat scoring spree back in 2010 when sharp-shooter Lar Corbett’s injury-time winner sealed a 3-17 to 3-16 win for Tipp en route to their Liam MacCarthy Cup success. But a late point from sub Shane Moloney nicked a one-point win for Galway last year.
“It was a shootout. I played and I had come off so I was off for what went on in the last 10 minutes,” recalled Donnellan on last year’s battle.
“I suppose there was parts that I couldn’t look at - it could have swayed any way.
After losing out to Kilkenny yet again in Leinster, Donnellan claims the fear of retiring without a Celtic Cross is driving Galway’s All- Ireland redemption bid as he heads into his eighth senior season.
Sunday’s match at HQ comes just three weeks after they got their campaign back on track with a quarter-final win over Clare in Thurles, recording a dominant six-point win over the Banner.
That win saw them bounce back from yet another dispiriting defeat to All- Ireland champions Kilkenny in the Leinster final - the fifth time Galway have failed to better Brian Cody’s side since their 2012 All-Ireland final replay defeat.
“And having lost two finals in the space of four years, Donnellan admits that the fear of never claiming an elusive All-Ireland medal is what keeps him going.
“Oh absolutely, it all has to be driven within you,” said the 30-year-old teacher. “We all seem to think we have a chance. Kilkenny have picked up most of the last 10 years but every year starting off you have to think you have a chance and you have to go for it. When you are in this game it has to come first. It comes ahead of relationships - it has to come ahead of family life. It comes first and everything else comes second.”
Galway bore the brunt of some harsh criticism following their loss to Kilkenny when the likes of former manager Ger Loughnane claimed they had “no guts” following their second-half collapse to the Cats.
Loughnane was one of many to slate the Galway panel after their push for a change of management last year, with Anthony Cunningham making way for Donoghue.
But Donnellan insisted the perceived coup did not increase the pressure on Galway to deliver an All- Ireland. “We’ve drawn the line on that.
“To a lot of people, it’s probably that you have to win an All-Ireland or not… But since I started, since 2008, it was that way anyway. So I don’t think it’s a case that within the squad, we feel more under pressure this year than other years.
“I think every year is failure unless you win an All- Ireland,” added the forward as Galway continue their bid to claim their first All-Ireland since 1988.
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