Liam Rushe has seen it: This Galway is different.
The Dublin hurler has faced the Connacht side time and again in league and championship since making his inter-county debut eight years ago and what he saw in Tullamore late last month, when his side fell 14 points short, was something of an eye-opener.
There were times, he said, when it seemed like Dublin were facing Waterford such was the volume of players withdrawn down the field and the loss of Cian O’Callaghan 40 minutes in that day only made the capital side’s job all the more difficult.
“Hard to play against,” he explained. “I still don’t think there’s been a proper analysis done of how they’re playing. They’re going to be hard beat, they’ve a lot of forwards who can win their own ball and score.
“They’re back to the constant rotation that you saw in 2012, which is hard to pin down, and they have a new role for Joe (Canning), drifting out to midfield. That’s the hardest thing to pin down. What are you going to do there? You’re not going to send your centre-back off to midfield to play there and have four backs.
“They really have developed a style that’s very difficult to play against. Like, they went a man up and withdrew everyone out the field anyway. So somehow we were a man down but there was still all the space in their attacking half. They’ve become very tactically shrewd in the last year.”
Another aspect to the tweaked approach is the manner in which they rotate their forwards. Conor Whelan was the only one of Galway’s six starting forwards that Rushe didn’t spy retreating at O’Connor Park. The rest of them are six-foot-plus and well able to contest dropping high balls.
Other sides have attempted that fluency and flexibility in attack in recent times, Tipperary among them, but Rushe believes Galway are taking that idea even further.
Add it to the congestion of midfield with bodies from the half-back, half-forward and midfield lines and you have a conundrum.
It’s certainly one Offaly are unlikely to solve this weekend.
“When they roll, it’s a hard thing to counter. You really have to sit down before you play and decide what you’re going to do with it.”
Whatever else happens this summer, Micheal Donoghue has left his stamp on the side, although Rushe’s appreciation for what they have done so far is tempered by a spring spent largely in Division 1B and the blow-out nature of those wins against Tipp and the Dubs. “But there’s a trend there maybe. They’re certainly going well and they’ll be hard beat.”
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