The difference between Galway 2017 and previous versions?
The strength and conditioning guy, the tactics, and the manager.
We’ll get to all those in due course with former Tipperary keeper and manager Ken Hogan.
He starts off with their mindset, though.
“I’d hope the defeat in the league final will be a motivation for the Tipp lads, certainly. Galway are quite capable of doing that to any team on their day, and the thing about that game, which is worrying from a Tipp point of view, is that the day of the league final, as soon as they went ahead, they really went for the jugular. They never let up.
“People have commented on the fact that that’s something new about Galway this year, that they’re a team going for the jugular and driving it on when they get ahead. It was noticeable against Wexford in the Leinster final as well, that they went ahead, Wexford came back, but then Galway went ahead again and kept putting over the scores.
“All of their wins this year have been nine/10-point margins. Easy wins. People can talk about the quality of some of their opponents, but going back to that league final, Tipperary were favourites for that game and yet we came out of that game licking our wounds.”
On the other hand, Galway are managing a five-week break since winning that Leinster final, a long period many teams — particularly Munster champions — have struggled with.
“I can’t see that being mismanaged by Galway,” says Hogan. “From my perspective, not being too far away from Galway, I know that they were carrying a couple of injuries into that Leinster final, so winning it gave them that extra couple of weeks to clear those up.
“Joe Canning had the chance to have a procedure on his knee in that break, for instance, and that gave him the chance to get back to full fitness for the All-Ireland semi-final. In that sense, the break may work to their advantage.
“You can always look for excuses when things go against you, but I don’t think Galway will blame the break if Sunday goes against them: As far as I can see, they’re itching to go.”
Micheal Donoghue is the key man in that regard. Joining in December 2015 after former boss Anthony Cunningham departed amid player unhappiness, he’s well bedded in now, but Hogan points to the quality he’s brought in with him: “Micheal’s a very astute manager, there’s no doubt about that, but people shouldn’t overlook the quality he has in his backroom team either. Franny Forde and Noel Larkin have both been around, they know the scene well. They’re two excellent coaches: Last year, Franny coached St Rynagh’s in Offaly to their first county title since 1993, for instance, so that shows his quality.
“It’s also well known that Tipp lost their strength-and-conditioning coach, Lukacz Kirzenstein, to the Galway set-up. I was over in Galway last week and they speak very highly of him — as do the Tipp lads — and they’re delighted to have him on board. He was an astute signing by Micheal, to get him on board in Galway.”
Kirzenstein has Galway in terrific physical condition, but Hogan points to the quality of their hurling as being far more significant.
“They’re playing a very good brand of hurling, a very smart brand of hurling. What struck me about their performance in the Leinster final is that Wexford came out and threw the kitchen sink at them in Croke Park in the first twenty-odd minutes, as you’d expect, but that didn’t knock Galway out of their stride at all. They stuck to their game plan, held their composure, kept hurling away and nabbed a few vital points just before half-time, the way a good team can. They pulled away then in the second half and won handily enough, but they were very composed when they needed to be.
“There was a time people talked about upsetting Galway, that you could get on top of them and upset them, but that won’t happen with this team. They and Tipperary have a healthy respect for each other, because there hasn’t been much between them; a point separated them in the last two All-Ireland semi-finals.
“It’s a huge game for both sides, but particularly for Galway, I think. They’re probably smarting from last year, because Tipperary got through that semi-final by the skin of their teeth and went on to win the All-Ireland and Galway probably feel they could have done the same. They’re keen to make amends and they have the National League trophy, the Bob O’Keeffe (Leinster championship) trophy, so the big one is all that’s left, but to win that you’ve to win a semi-final as well, and that’s the acid test for them.”
As befits a former ’keeper, Hogan stresses the need for Tipp to shut down Galway’s goalscoring threat to have any chance of winning on Sunday.
“Galway are the stand-out team this year, they’ve been hugely impressive. The thing about this Galway team is that they’ll be judged on bringing home the Liam MacCarthy Cup and, good as they are, that won’t be easy.
“They’ve won leagues before, Leinsters before, but a semi-final or final can trip up the best of teams. They have a huge test on Sunday, and another huge test if they can get over that one, but it goes without saying that neither team will look past Sunday.
“It’s a game that will take on a life of its own, too: Galway will be conscious of the need to get on top of Tipperary from the word go, to pin them down and to strangle them; Tipp will be conscious of conceding major scores against Galway in the league final and all through the championship since; we’ve conceded an awful lot and we’ve been depending on our forwards to get us out of jail, really, in games. We need to shore things up at the back and work as positively as we can with the talent we have up at front.
“But if we concede two or three goals at the weekend, we’re finished. “
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