The eagle-eyed might have noticed that this is a quarter-final preview, not previews. Because, ahem, we have to confess we don't feel properly equipped to write a preview on Cork v Antrim, not having seen the Saffrons on either of their excursions to Dublin thus far this summer. The media will this weekend be full of poor professionals quite simply spoffing it about Antrim.Last weekend a decision had to be made, by this aspirant day tripper, which qualifier game might prove more fruitful. We likely made the wrong call and we all move on. What we can add about the tussle is that Cork appear quite familar to the Offaly side that staggered to the last six of the All-Ireland ten years ago. They got the fright of their lives from Derry, bailed out by the sublime accuracy of Johnny Dooley. Cork will probably get over Sunday's test, possibly by the skin of their teeth, and may go on to roar again in an All-Ireland semi. Mind you that Offaly team of 2000 who came back from the dead to beat the rebels didn't have to beat Kilkenny of the 2010 vintage. If one general point can be made about Antrim's success ( yes we know we're changing the subject here because of ignorance ) it is that it must be quite a while since the third rank of counties, such as Antrim, Laois and Carlow were in such comparatively rude health. At the fear of speaking too soon, should Antrim get the tanning they got from Cork in 2004, it's heartening that the excellent Antrim minor teams of 2005/06 haven't perhaps gone compleatly to waste.
Re Tipperary v Galway: To set the scene, two simple points: A Tipperary side that almost couldn't have played better in last years final ( bar a missed goal or two ) is not hitting the same heights this year. Key players like Conor O' Mahoney, Padraic Maher, Shane McGrath, Noel McGrath and Lar Corbett have gone into their shells somewhat. Secondly, despite this they should on this year's form, drawing a line through Wexford and Offaly, still beat Galway. Tipp seem to at least have cleared their heads since their Munster defeat, and held Offaly at arms length with a comfortable assurance. If their defending hasn't been showy, it has at least been tidely efficient. Brendan Maher has arguably been the best player thus far this summer ( neck and neck with Offaly's James Rigney ) who wasn't named in R.T.E's demi team of the year. Gearoid Ryan reminds of Mark O' Leary from the Premier's last All-Ireland winning team; an eye for a score being matched by allowing opponents to puck a world of ball. Whilst less showily than of yore, Eoin Kelly franked the Offaly game with occasional flashes of class; he hasn't gone away you know!
Galway though look more capable of taming Tipp's forwards than heretofore, partly because of Tipp's forwards being slightly becalmed, with Seamus Callinan currently consigned to the bench. This blogger hasn't been the biggest fan of Shane Kavanagh and David Collins, but both, especially the latter, are improved players. Ollie Canning has recovered from early season jitters, and Tony Og Regan suffers unfairly from over emphasis on his faults as opposed to his steady-eddie attributes. David Burke was missed at midfield the last day, and some Sunday he and Ger Farragher will string it all together. If there has been a theme to Galway's chopping and changing upfront it's been John McIntyre's preference for sturdiness up front, exemplified by Iarla Tannion's continued siting at corner forward. If Galway fail on Sunday supporters will perhaps point to the starting of Tannion, Cyril Donnellan and Eanna Ryan rather than the likes of Niall Healy, Aengus Callinan and Aidan Harte,and bemoan the plumping for grunt over guile.
So Tipp have the more pursuasive lineup with greater scope for improvement. An open and shut case then. Well at the risk of appearing querulous and opting for hunches over evidence, maybe not. It's put up or shut up time for many of these Galway players considering the expectations that have been heaped on them. The sight of the Tipperary jersey after a few weeks rest, should unleash Galway's best display of the summer. Tipp on the other hand have five under-21 starters facing into their third game in 11 days, with a Munster u-21 final on Wednesday in the rear-view mirror. Joe Canning has had a break after his hand injury and could faces Paul Curren, who was discomforted by Joe Bergin last Sunday. Tipp's team still looks like a staging post to a more settled selection with Shane McGrath out of place in the half-line. Plus one must always remember that the Tribesmen start every match with a 2/3 point start because of their superlative sideline cutting. Galway may not as yet have stumbled upon their optimum forward line, and would likely succumb to Sunday's opponnents more often than not. But being the irrational beasts we are, we sense that Sunday won't be one of them.