Hawkeye Sidekick

All Ireland Senior Hurling Semi-Final Replay Preview

After all the drama of last weekend, local neighbors Clare and Galway must regroup and do it all over again on the hallowed turf of Semple Stadium to see who will take on Limerick in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Final. If the replay is half as good as last weekend, we are in for an absolute treat. Hawkeye Sidekick looks at the key battles ahead of this weekend’s replay.

Clare: Sweep or not to sweep

The tactical switch to deploy Colm Galvin as a sweeper in the Clare back line to negate the threat from the Galway inside full forward as well as provide excellent distribution to the likes of Tony Kelly and Peter Duggan setup the platform for Clare’s fightback last weekend.

Clare are no strangers of the sweeper system but have rarely used the tactic in this season’s championship. Galway surely will have regrouped on this tactic and expect the Tribesmen to adopt a more aggressive running game from deep.

The decision to switch Galvin back in the Clare defense denied the midfielder from providing a long range scoring threat. Clare management have to push up Galvin at different times to hit a couple of points to keep the scoreboard ticking or do they depend on Tony Kelly to be the focal point for these type of attacks? Intriguing tactical decisions await again.

Galway: McInerney Potential Absence

All indications within Galway suggest that Gearoid McInerney is a massive doubt for the replay; suspected calf tear would rule the Oranmore Maree clubman out of both the All Ireland Semi-Final replay and the All Ireland Final showpiece on August 19th. No confirmation at the time of this blog posting.

The absence would be a big blow but Galway management have prided themselves in the strength of their panel this season and the absence at center back allows the opportunity for someone on the bench to make an impress. Padraic Mannion looks most likely to fill the half-back void with the likes of Loftus or Killeen slotting into the wing back spot. Loftus looks the most viable option; quality underage player whose pace should negate the pace posed by Clare in the half forward unit.

If the injury news is contained to the potential absence of McInerney from half-back, Galway will have a dodged a bullet. Given the concern expressed for the fitness of Joe Canning (which has eased), the side looks pretty much be unchanged from the side that took to the field last weekend. Squad depth for Galway is vital this weekend.

Galway: Scoring Accuracy

Michael O’Donoghue and management secretly must have being frustrated on the opening period attacking performance last weekend. Galway in the middle third had dominated the first quarter and presented chance after chance for their forward line to establish a potential match winning lead. The attacking line unit were inconsistent and twelve wides in that opening period opened the door for Clare to launch a comeback.

Several of those opening period wides were most uncharacteristic; a couple of efforts straight in front which on another day would have gone over. The missed goal chance from Cathal Mannion perhaps encapsulates the  misfiring issues within the forward line; setup superbly but Mannion’s first touch was poor and  the goal scoring opportunity was lost (even though a point was scored).

Galway given the expected defensive reshuffle need to be on point this weekend. The dependency of Joe Canning needs to be distributed across the attacking unit. Conor Whelan, Cathal Mannion, Conor Cooney showed good moments last weekend but it needs to be more frequent in this replay as Joe Canning will not be 100%.

Will Joe Canning even last the full game? Free taking will be vital and with Peter Duggan looking sharp last weekend for Clare in the placed balls, Jason Flynn will need to deliver again on the placed balls if called upon. The fitness concerns for Galway makes it a nervy fixture for the Galway supporters ahead of this replay.

Defensive Issues 

Both full back sides struggled at different intervals last weekend. Clare were all over the place in the first quarter; so much so that the sweeper was required. The Galway goal was a nightmare defensively with the full back line guilty of dwelling too long with the sliothar. Conor Cooney’s finish was emphatic. The Glynn threat was always a threat and I don’t see who from Clare can negate the Ardrahan clubman’s threat.

Galway’s full back line struggled in the second half. Once Clare created space for the likes of Conlon and O’Donnell, Galway’s full back line suddenly were on the back foot. Conlon had a superb second half. His four point haul showcased his accuracy as he pulled Daithi Burke out of position throughout. Shanagher’s goal was well taken but full back line unit were slow to sense the danger from the original first into the Galway square.

Two full back lines who could potentially be stretched again as the game will open up significantly well before the final whistle. The result will be decided on which full back line has improved more in the past week; made the necessary adjustments to negate their opposition line’s threat. If not and Limerick have more reason to be optimistic in the final.

Clare Midfield Poser

Cathal Malone struggled for tempo and performance last weekend. Will Clare management resist the temptation to make switch? David Fitzgerald personally is a wing back but his cameo off the bench from midfield scoring and setting up scores with superb runs from deep must have being taken into the Clare management’s plan this week. However, Malone has being the ever present midfield partner for Galvin this year. Interesting call for Moloney and O’Connor ahead of this replay. The inclusion of Ian Galvin as well is a secondary point but this midfield question will be a pregame poser.

Puck Out Strategy

Both sides struggled on their puck out strategy last weekend. Clare in the opening quarter were a mess on the puck out. Tuohy not being helped by static Clare movement out the field. The results were disastrous as the Crusheen keeper had to go long with little reward. Cue the very fast restarts and things started to change as Clare started to go through the lines with their passing game; much better.

Galway after a positive opening period were reduced to long ball over the top; Glynn was the target man each and every time but it was very one dimensional; no significant running lines from deep as Skehill persisted to go long. Both keepers need to up their game on the restarts and it will be interesting to see if Clare or Galway push up on the puck outs early to unnerve either keeper.

Verdict

Until the champions are beaten, I cannot go against Galway. Clare had Galway where they wanted them in that extra time and when you consider the personnel who departed the Galway side and still Clare were dependent on a superb Jason McCarthy equalizer, wondering how Clare win this? The closing scene of Canning, Burke, Tuohy, Whelan on the bench looking on anxiously at the last moments last week was a huge boost for Clare but they did not drive it home.

Galway’s attacking play cannot be as one dimensional this weekend. Clare’s sweeper system tactic is out again and I expect Galway to nullify this threat if it is presented this weekend. The injury concerns for Galway look more positive as the week has progressed. If Daithi Burke and Padraic Mannion can provide a solid back line central performance, Galway have the advantage to win this one.

Clare’s full back line struggled all ends up with the threat of Glynn and if Conor Whelan can become more prominent in open play supporting Glynn on the aerial battle, it means even more trouble for Clare. Galway edge this replay; their experience in Thurles for the Leinster SHC replay will prove invaluable in a three / four point win despite the efforts of Duggan, Kelly and Conlon.