In dispatches, after Galway's victory over the All-Ireland champions last Sunday, mention was made to the 2005 semi-final between the counties. It was an apt reference in some ways. ( in as much as league and championship fare can ever be compared ) On both days Kilkenny had a thrown together nature to them, usually anathema to a Brian Cody stewarded side, and narrowly lost a high scoring thriller. The papers have spent the first half of the week reading the tea leaves over Kilkenny's muted league performances. It has been rightly noted that it's not all doom and gloom. John Mulhall has brought the swashbuckling ( everyone with long hair has a fair shot at that epithet ) brio he exhibited at u-21 to the National League. The usually acute judge, Sean Moran in the Irish Times, also name checked John Dalton. However to this observer's eyes Dalton, previously a hero of the 2008 Fitzgibbon final in shackling Joe Canning, spent the whole of Sunday on the back foot. When decent ball went into Galway's right corner Aidan Harte and 2009 minor Richie Cummins were well out in front and made hay. Unless injury is an issue, one wonders why the excellent u-21 of the last two summers, Paul Murphy hasn't been given a chance to ply his wares. If Kilkenny haters are looking for further signs post- 2009 final that the gold might be rusting a little, it may be that if the miles on Michael Kavanagh's clock become an issue the full-back line will look increasingly vulnerable, given that Noel Hickey's last appearance in black and amber is becoming a distant memory. Kilkenny fans will perhaps seek succour ( they are a serious and fretful lot you see, when it comes to hurling ) that none of last Sunday's defensive corp may line out in the same positions in the summer and that JJ and the aforementioned Kavanagh and Hickey can return. In the prime of his competitive life having Tommy Walsh at corner back is not so much robbing Peter to pay Paul, as robbing St Peter, rock of the church to pay Paul. Still to score 1-23, without Shefflin, Larkin and Brennan, against one of their leading rivals; what crisis indeed!
Amidst the good vibes apres the vanquishing of the All-Ireland champions, Galway will do well to remember that too many of their noteworthy victories come in shoot-outs. True their defence has Adrian Cullinane and Ollie Canning to return, ( as an aside it's only fair to point out that this quarter doubted whether Canning could revert to former glories on his return, and was completely wrong ) but do they have the look of an All-Ireland winning defence though, especially if John Lee teases and taunts as to whether he can make the step to excellence on a permanent basis.
There were bountiful positives though and not just the forward depth that was signposted by the 2-3 from play by substitutes. Ger Farragher's almost nonchalant excellence from dead balls, is amazing not least since he may be second choice for the task in the summer. Sean Ban Breathnach's observation that last years u-21 team was the worst in yonks ( conceivable considering how brilliant Canning was in the semi-final? ) may be leavened if David Burke and the aforementioned Harte continue to make a good impression. Plus Cyril Donnellan, on this and last summer's evidence in Tullamore, if nothing else, has the rather positive attribute of playing well against the sports standard bearers. It's possible that like 1988 Galway may win an All-Ireland with an Eanna Ryan on the team. If they can find a Peter Finnerty or Gerry McInerney in the next few months they will really be quids in.