Hawkeye Sidekick

Leinster SHC Final Preview

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Big prize on offer for the victor

On a weekend when the shark infested waters of the All Ireland Hurling Qualifiers commence, there is a big prize on offer for the victor of this Sunday’s Leinster SHC showpiece event.

A win guarantees an All Ireland semi-final berth while the loser must contend with a battle hardened team coming from the qualifiers in the quarter-final stage. A game with massive consequences. Hawkeye Sidekick previews the action.

How does Galway forward line negate the sweeper system?

Wexford will bring physicality and tempo to the opening exchanges. We presume that Davy Fitzgerald will look to deploy the sweeper system to negate the influence of the Galway forward line in particular Joe Canning whose game management and setup work for team colleagues has being exemplary.

Key defensive assignments for Wexford to stifle the threat of Canning and the increasingly influential Conor Whelan who has reveled in the distribution of Canning this season.

Liam Ryan and Matthew O’Hanlon will look to set down the marker early but require their colleagues and goalkeeper to be on point too with the likes of Cooney, Mannion in the Galway ranks. Intriguing tactical battle will ensue.

Can Lee Chin control affairs from midfield / half-forward?

A key component to Wexford’s victory over Kilkenny in the provincial semi-final was the inspirational performance of Lee Chin who when deployed to midfield nullifed Paddy Deegan and produce a man of the match performance. Chin’s aerial dominance is the springboard for Wexford on Sunday.

A repeat and Wexford will be placed to win the Leinster final. Chin’s leadership particularly in the closing stages in the semi-final was pivotal as other experienced Wexford players started to wane.

Chin’s decision to focus totally on the hurling this season has paid instant rewards and has to be a front runner for the player of the year accolades come the end of the season. A tough assignment for McInerney and potentially Galway midfield to reduce the impact of Chin.

Galway back line to be fully tested this weekend.

The Galway back line has come up trumps in recent outings but let us remember who Galway have accounted for in the Leinster Championship this season. A Dublin team who are in transition with key personnel departures and then a poor Offaly side who were second best in all facets of play.

The Galway back line have not being seriously being put under the cosh but Wexford will look to change this. Daithi Burke and Conor McDonald battle will be a key tussle. McDonald needs to provide an inside full forward line threat and leadership which was missing at times against Kilkenny.

Burke has being tenacious in the full back spot, set the tone which other defenders have followed. Adrian Tuohy is a seriously underrated player. His man marking ability has being to the fore in recent assignments. Kehoe’s goal threat has being a standout for Wexford and Tuohy will look to cancel that.

Chin’s ability to move on the forty and midfield will pose problems for the Galway half-back line. Wexford’s attacking line running has being excellent and Galway will need to track runners defensively. This is a final where defensive weakness will be ruthlessly exposed; intriguing clashes beckon.

Can David Burke produce a platform for Galway in midfield?

Burke is a superb player, sitting in the pocket just in front of the half back line distributing excellent ball to Canning and his forward line. The St. Thomas’ club man has evolved with an excellent running game which has yielded numerous scores from play.

Wexford midfield will need to keep tabs on Burke but inability to track opposition runners has being a theme this season. Laois and Kilkenny have profited from Wexford lapses in this aspect of play and is something that Galway will look to exploit. Burke vs. Chin looks like an epic match-up.

 

Can Galway cope with the favorite tag?

They have done so emphatically this season since winning the NHL final but this is genuinely the first serious test of their Liam McCarthy credentials since then. How will Galway cope if the game is in the melting pot in the final minutes? Does flashbacks to past failures come into the equation.

Galway management will need to be assertive in this regard, making timely switches if units are not performing to plan. Wexford are a team with nothing to lose. Pundits have acclaimed their upturn in form but little give the Model County a chance of beating a more battle hardened Galway.

It is a perfect setup for Wexford; management and players can express themselves with freedom in this final showpiece, a dangerous dangerous proposition for Galway. I expect Wexford to bring the battle to Galway for the full game and Galway must be decisive and on the front foot throughout. Any conservative game plan tactics to stifle Wexford will backfire on Galway.

Verdict

There is something about Wexford this season which is making me lean towards them. The NHL meeting earlier in the year cannot be completely dismissed. Galway had their way against Wexford for two thirds of the contest in Salthill but how Wexford responded, fought back and won was a standard bearer for the rest of the year and guaranteed NHL 1A promotion in the process.

Wexford look strong down the middle of the park. O’Hanlon and Ryan are fantastic defenders and will lead their defensive lines well. Chin and McDonald need to provide the platform and when you consider the secret weapon of Jack Guiney inside as well, there is a strong argument for Wexford to win this one.

All the pressure is on Galway tomorrow. I think if you are being frank, their talent is superior to Wexford man for man but it is the work rate and tactical nous of Fitzgerald which could win the day. What happens Galway if  per say the half-forward and back line start to have issues?

The squad off the bench has not being tested in the cut and thrust of championship battle. I think this could be a decisive factor against them on Sunday. Galway need to be tested; need to answer questions on their composure and game management when put under pressure in the closing stages of a championship contest — until they answer these emphatically, I still have my doubts.

Wexford for me with nothing to lose will win this classic. Galway enter the murky waters of the All Ireland Quarter final I sense. Whoever loses, the morale and ability to pick themselves up for that fixture will be incredibly difficult. This game is more than a provincial final crown. It defines the season. Roll on Sunday!