The Leinster SHC semi-final pairings are now known. There were no upsets in the quarter finals albeit Westmeath went exceptionally close to beating Offaly. Galway and Wexford both dispatched Dublin and Laois with the minimum of fuss. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.
Galway cruise into semi-final
This was a very dark day for Dublin hurling. For all the investment that has being put into Dublin underage hurling structures, they are as far away as ever from making the All Ireland breakthrough.
Ger Cunningham and management for one reason or another have had to make do without the services of several standout players in the county. The decision of Paul Schutte to join the Dublin football panel last week is showing that there are clear issues within the current setup. You only have to see Danny Sutcliffe plying his GAA in New York this year to see that.
Dublin did a Cork against Galway and it failed abysmally; named several championship debutantes in their starting lineup but where as the Cork rookies were on form against Tipperary playing with pace and power, the Dublin rookies were devoid of any confidence and were listless in defeat. Chastening experience for all concerned and will do little to create a winning culture within the panel.
Galway pulled away with ease after the resumption; the opening period was a labored performance and showed only flashes of brilliance to emulate a dull drab affair. Flynn’s opening goal was a smart finish, questions whether Joseph Cooney could have supplied the pass instead of taking a shot himself. The pass from Canning to Flynn which should have yielded a goal just before the interval was sheer class.
Michael O’Donoghue will be pleased to get out of this fixture with a solid outing under their belt. The injury to Paul Killeen was the only dampener as Galway’s forward line stepped up the tempo to put the fixture out of reach within eight minutes of the restart. Flynn, Whelan, Canning and the substitute Niall Burke showed well. Conor Cooney looked sharp taking a superbly well taken goal to close the tie out.
The midfield area is probably the area of contention for Galway. I am not convinced that this is the best position for Coen. The Loughrea man struggled to make an impact to proceedings. David Burke was typically all action; great running and distribution and chipped in with some lovely scores. Galway have options in midfield but whether Coen will match up when realistically Galway face Kilkenny is another story. Canning controlled and game managed as he wished.
Galway defensively were untroubled apart from a couple of O’Callaghan bursts which should have yielded more than Barry Kelly gave. McInerney was solid at half back and Daithi Burke was imperious at full back. Tuohy at corner back did his job but feel that he is better suited out the field. However, it is clear that O’Donoghue has assigned Tuohy with man marking the main threats of an inside full forward line this season.
Mission accomplished for Galway and a fixture with Offaly. For Dublin, a potentially short qualifier series beckons. The sight of Ryan O’Dwyer in midfield at the resumption of the second half said everything; no options to break the dominance of David Burke in the middle of the park. Crummey, O’Connell tried hard defensively but the issues were up the pitch. Rushe struck an isolated figure at half-back, was moved around constantly and could not impose his authority on the game thus creating massive space inside for Galway’s full forward line to exploit.
Puckout strategy for Dublin was route one throughout; no change from a dominant Galway half-back line. Cunningham and management tried to adopt a short passing game in the second half but that tactic only lasted a couple of minutes as Galway dispossessed their Dublin opponents with ease and closed out the contest with ease. Only for O’Callaghan inside, no genuine attacking threat. Dotsy arrived to the scene far too late.
On this performance, Dublin Senior Hurlers are plunging into the abyss. Cunningham could be the fall guy but who would potentially take over a camp which is quite clearly divided and with leaders such as O’Dwyer and Dotsy O’Callaghan nearing an end to their intercounty career, things look bleak for the nation’s capital. An early July elimination in the qualifiers looks likely which is disappointing for Leinster and hurling in general.
Wexford win but questions raised
A fourteen point victory for Wexford against a gallant Laois outfit but there were parts of this contest which will worry Davy Fitzgerald and management. Wexford made a slow start to proceedings and it was not until twenty minutes in when we started to see any concerted tempo and pattern to their play.
Once Wexford started to create opportunities for their inside full forward line, the result was never in doubt. Conor McDonald led from the full forward position, chipped in with several good scores from play and setup colleagues around him to establish the team a platform for victory. Kehoe’s opening goal was well worked and was a menace for an overworked Laois full back line throughout.
The issues for Wexford could manifest themselves glaringly in two weeks. Purcell and King from midfield exposed Wexford’s inability to track runners from deep and the pair scored several quality scores from play. Kilkenny will do damage in the midfield area. You can see the likes of Ryan, Buckley picking up good positions and scoring at will. Wexford have being duly warned.
Wexford defensively will need to tighten up. No disrespect to Laois but for Wexford to leak 1-17 is concerning. Laois found space in that opening period, something that Kilkenny will punish more readily in two weeks time. The shot selection from the hosts means that 1-17 conceivably could have being 1-23 come the full time whistle. It was a loose display from the back line for periods of this contest and Wexford do not have to be told that a repeat will be devastating for their Leinster hopes when a charged up Kilkenny come to town.
Jack Guiney’s cameo from off the bench was rewarded with an excellent goal. Guiney is going to have to play a pivotal role as impact sub in two weeks. For Wexford to realistically beat Kilkenny, goals will need to be scored at regular intervals. Guiney provides Wexford with an additional full forward threat and allows McDonald to roam around the park (like Canning) to influence proceedings.
Wexford were not unduly tested by Laois in that second half and ran out convincing winners despite the best efforts of the likes of Purcell and King who have come to the fore for O’Moore County. Stephen Maher as well tried hard but Wexford were too strong physically.
Laois have made progress this season but they saw the gap in class yesterday. Qualifier run is the objective but with the likes of Tipperary, Limerick / Clare, Waterford / Cork, Kilkenny / Wexford in the mix, that looks remote.
Davy Fitzgerald is in a perfect spot heading into a potentially superb semi-final tussle with Kilkenny. Home field advantage. The performance yesterday at times lacked spark and tempo in defensive and midfield work rate. I expect a much improved Wexford side in the semi-final. They have to, otherwise a drubbing will occur.
Hail Hail Shane Dooley
The reaction of Offaly supporters in Mullingar at the final whistle of an exciting four point win over Westmeath spoke volumes; this was too close for comfort and only for Shane Dooley and some erratic Westmeath defending, Offaly would have lost this encounter.
This game saw two evenly matched sides go at it throughout. Westmeath had superb displays from Tommy Doyle at full back, aerial dominance and cleared an amount of ball throughout. The Greville brothers and Killian Doyle as well provided leadership and scores at various intervals.
The downfall for the hosts was lapses in concentration. Two poor goals were leaked during this contest and the Westmeath keeper will reflect on what might have being. Over zealous challenge in the opening period gave away a needless penalty dispatched superbly by Dooley and was caught rotten when Dooley flicked the ball off the keeper’s hurl in the second half when the game was in the melting pot.
Offaly won this game because of Shane Dooley. The Tullamore player took the fight to Westmeath throughout when others in his team started to wane. His work rate was on point, something that Offaly struggled out the field as Westmeath looked the better conditioned side throughout. Dooley’s heavy scoring meant that Offaly just about got away with this result.
On the basis of this performance, Offaly will be thumped by Galway. The work rate issue is a massive concern in the middle third and you can see Galway systematically breaking Offaly down with each passing minute of their upcoming semi-final fixture. Dooley will not be afforded some of the goalscoring opportunities afforded last weekend. Offaly win but it is only staving off execution for a couple of weeks. One step forward, potentially three steps back after this semi-final I fear.
Westmeath produced a stirring performance and but for naive defending would have come away with a superb victory. Michael Ryan and his charges have improved significantly after a slow start to the league and round robin championship stage. Tommy Doyle’s cameos should not be cast away come Awards time; what a talent and if he was playing for one of the bigger teams, he would be a shoe-in for an All Star.
Like Laois, a qualifier run looks remote given the teams that will be in the pot. The question of retaining players in the panel (lure of USA) may see several withdrawals but like Laois, this is something that realistically will happen with players conceding that their championship is up and time to go to USA to play / earn money for the summer.