Tuesday, July 6, 2010

the ( neverchanging ) story so far? - Galway

Yikes the Leinster Council won't be employing former Kilkenny hurler John Henderson as a P.R.O anytime soon. On radio last night he opined that there was a lack of atmosphere at Croke Park last Sunday and that Wexford were missed. Many Wexford people are probably happy enough that their days as the sacrificial lamb for Kilkenny in early June are likely over for the moment. But Galway were, we were told, going to bring a new vibrancy and unpredictability to final day: The combination of Henry Shefflin, Joe Canning, et al was going to bring a huge walk up crowd to Croke Park. ( 31,000 was a decent attendance in the real world ) Now those of us who carped against the sticking plaster that was Galway and Antrim's entry to the Leinster Championship will admit that it certainly hasn't been a bad thing. If for no other reason than it allows neighbours like Galway and Offaly to meet more often in championship than when there is a blue moon. But certainly, as Sunday showed, this fixture isn't a panacea for the ills of hurling. Those, such as Cyril Farrell and other cheerleaders in the media may be distraught at Galway's performance. But when viewed through the prism of the major loss of David Burke and the absence of Niall Healy ( he of the goalscoring record against the cats ) the defeat wasn't that injurious. Healy would have least have given the Tribesmen the option of playing someone comfortable at corner forward, a crucial piece of any armoury versus the All-Ireland champions. Given that Galway have gained a reputation in recent years as a team that can discommode with pace, it's slightly troubling that John McIntyre clings to playing big men at corner forward. Even without Healy someone like Aengus Callinan could have tried his hand there rather than banging his head against J.J Delaney's wall. But he, Damien Hayes ( who gallantly tried to fight many fires on Sunday ) Aidan Harte and Healy give Galway enough options to play a more conventional game, preventing Joe Canning from being a fish out of water. Canning has in some senses become the team in microcosm. Very gifted in parts but someone whose faults don't get scrutiny in the media. In fairness to Canning his drawbacks are very minor. But if he's going to be exposed to players who can match him for physique and best him for pace, it should at least happen with him at the edge of the square rather than corner forward. Not that he should just be left at full forward. It's not as if Kilkenny decide to limit Henry Shefflin thusly. Canning has contributed handsomely from play this summer up to last Sunday, and has an injured hand, but because of media hype eyebrows are now raised if he doesn't produce heroics. Returning to Galway in macro the media have continually not dealt with the issue that they haven't in recent years held opponents to low enough scores that would entitle them to be labelled All-Ireland contenders. This continued on Sunday although in fairness it was against the most exacting test. This blogger has never been the biggest fan of Shane Kavanagh and David Collins but both, especially the latter, have improved as players in recent times. Ollie Canning and Donal Barry, at opposite ends of their inter-county careers have also steadied up since the first Offaly game. If you engage in slightly silly crystal ball gazing, perhaps the most likely opponent for Galway in a couple of weeks would be Clare, who Galway would almost certainly be too seasoned and physical for. A team with ambition can't necessarily treat a game with the All-Ireland champions as a write off, but, now armed with more realistic expectations, it's not time to panic about Galway yet.

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