Galway and Dublin provide a novel pairing in tomorrow’s Leinster SHC final, a pairing few would have foreseen at the start of this season.
Galway yes; as reigning champions, they were seeded straight to the semi-final, were hotly fancied to beat the winners of the unofficial Leinster B championship.
Antrim, Carlow, Laois, London and Westmeath were all on that side, a rejuvenated Laois emerged as winners and the Tribesmen duly obliged, though they got a far stiffer examination than many had expected.
Dublin though? To get this far they’ve had to overcome two considerable obstacles, Wexford and – far more ominously – Kilkenny. They did so, but only after a replay against both teams.
But Galway captain Fergal Moore isn’t all that shocked to be facing Anthony Daly’s men.
“It wouldn’t have been what most people expected at the start of the year but it just goes to show, anything can happen in hurling. A new pairing and I’d say most people are looking forward to it. The Leinster final was always a huge occasion but this probably adds a bit of intrigue to it, another level of excitement. We know how good Dublin are now. Since Anthony Daly took over they’ve taken the scalp of all the top teams in the country at one stage or another. So we’re under no illusions about the team we’re facing. It’s a Leinster final, they’ll be going all out to win, as will we.”
It’s worth stating again here though what was mentioned in passing above. While Kilkenny are still (despite their loss to Dublin) the reigning All-Ireland champions and thus still the number one team in hurling in most people’s eyes, Galway are the reigning Leinster champions having seen off Brian Cody’s charges last season. A lot of people seem to have forgotten that very salient fact.
“But that’s probably down to the fact we didn’t go on to win the All-Ireland title,” contests Moore. “It just goes to show that it’s not the provincial champions that are remembered, it’s the All-Ireland champions. We’re aware of it ourselves though and we’ll be trying to retain that title on Sunday.”
It’s been a tremendous championship with surprises also in Munster with both Limerick and Cork upsetting the odds against Tipperary and Clare respectively. Moore believes such results are a shot in the arm for the game.
“As a player, that’s what you want. We all start training in January believing we have a chance of winning, of progressing – you wouldn’t do it otherwise. That’s what you’re seeing this year, fresh blood, new teams, results going their way.
“For the neutral it must be very exciting but for the players also it’s a boost. Kilkenny are still the All-Ireland champions and none of us are forgetting that. That title hasn’t been taken from them, we’re all playing catch-up to them. But it’s very much a level playing-field now, everyone has an equal chance of winning.”
The same can be said of this particular game with nothing between Galway and Dublin. The last time they met in serious competition was the Division 1A relegation final of 2012 and it took two games to separate them then, Galway running out convincing 4-21 to 0-19 winners and initiating a slippery slide for Dublin. But that result is a distant memory for both camps.
“Nothing went right for Dublin all last year. In most of the games they lost they weren’t beaten by very much – I wouldn’t read too much into that. Their form this year so far has been very good. They’ve won promotion, are back up to Division 1A, they’ve beaten Wexford and Kilkenny to get to this final. They’re a top-class team with a top-class manager, a huge, huge proposition for us. It’s a Leinster final; for us, it’s all about performance, about getting our own game right.”
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