All Ireland Senior Hurling Final Thoughts


The Limerick quest for Liam McCarthy after forty -five years of disappointment and near misses is complete; a thrilling second half injury time where flashbacks of ’94 came back at a rate of knots. Limerick’s one point win to a gallant reigning champions Galway was created due to a number of key game moments. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on these. 

Puckout Strategy

If you want to know how this final was won, you just need to see the strategy from the puck outs. Nicky Quaid was quick to distribute to Finn and English where the distribution from the corner backs was confident, locating wing backs and wing forwards roving deep.

Galway on the other hand were devoid of momentum from the quick short puck outs. Tuohey and Hanbury looked to either take their man on and lose possession or hit aimless long high ball which was lapped up by the Limerick back line.

Credit to the Limerick middle third as well; their speed and movement to provide options for Nicky Quaid was a video analysis session for hurling teams looking to improve their puck out retention rates. This was a decisive part of the game.

Seamus Flanagan

The Feohanagh-Castlemahon forward has provided an added dimension to the Limerick full forward line. His pace and ability to rove in the middle third winning possession was to the fore after a slow opening quarter.

Flanagan’s work rate was typified in the lead up to the first Limerick goal. 50/50 challenge (Galway will say different) against Padraic Mannion saw the ball arrive at the hurl of Kyle Hayes who then dispatched a sharp pass inside to Graeme Mulcahy and the rest as they say is history. 

Flanagan posed different looks to the Galway full back line. Who would pick up the player? Flanagan scored a vital point just on half time and his confidence grow upon the restart looking for ball and bringing colleagues into the game. The forward ran his heart out for the cause and the young player can take pride on his cameo. 

Galway tension

Watching the contest at home, I was surprised that RTE had camera footage in the warm up area prior to throw-in. Limerick players seen going through their final prep but there was no footage of Galway. Why not? It was pretty baffling to say the least and the opening period performance saw a Galway side who were slow out of the blocks, tension filled in shot selection as well as Limerick. 

The hunted were feeling extreme pressure from the opening whistle as the Limerick mobility and work rate in the middle third was to the fore. The image of McInerney and Tuohey losing possession. The image of McInerney being shunted to the ground by Flanagan was an early momentum booster for Limerick who started to execute their game plan.

Galway’s game plan was unclear. Glynn struck a remote figure in the full forward position. Mike Casey must be applauded for sticking to the task but the ball and positioning of the player far out from the Limerick goal must have music to John Kiely’s and Limerick backroom staff’s eyes.

No clear plan for Conor Whelan as well; distribution inside to the full forward was hard work primarily due to Limerick’s middle third dominance but yet again Galway were taking the wrong shot selection with only Joe Canning and David Burke coming to the fore in the scoring department. 

Galway needed to hurt Limerick in the full back line; it only started in the 74th minute, far too late. Galway’s management will need to reflect on the tactics deployed today; struggled to address the Limerick threat and their forward line running lines were far too static. A sign perhaps of a long season and two epic replays to Kilkenny and Clare catching up on the players? 

Limerick Goals: Reward for work rate without the sliothar

All three Limerick goals were scored due to lost possession from Galway defensively. The first goal saw Padraic Mannion lose possession after a challenge from Flanagan. The second goal saw Tom Morrissey strip the ball from Gearoid McInerney who was quite struggling with fitness. The third goal will be the most galling for Galway; Tuohey looked at ease with the ball but dwelt too long to hit it allowing Peter Casey to win back possession and setup Dowling to score the decisive third goal. 

The goals that Limerick scored were full of work rate, determination and desire to win the ball back. No Limerick forward was static without the ball, constantly looking to support their defense, not giving the Galway defense any opportunity to setup and pick a pass to a midfield or forward line colleague. Galway forward line work rate without the ball were flat. Limerick back line were comfortable with the sliothar and distributing to the midfield and forward line with frequent accuracy. 

Wide Count

The end of the contest was exciting but in truth, Limerick made extremely hard work to close out the final. Several poor wides to put the game to bed allowing Galway to have a chance until the last puck of the game. Both sides were guilty of poor wides throughout. 

Limerick’s opening period was full of work rate and enthusiasm but the scoreboard perhaps failed to accurately reflect this. Four points up at the break, credit to Limerick with Kyle Hayes hitting the purple patch with some standout scores. Hayes was ably assisted by Mulcahy and Byrnes with key scores. 

Galway struggled for tempo upfront and several Galway forwards were under pressure with their shot selection; a couple of unusual shot selections from marquee Galway forwards during the third quarter in particular to put pressure on Limerick. Galway’s options of Niall Burke and Jason Flynn were thrown early; an indication of how the forward line units were performing. 

The wide count for each side was too big; in other years, this would not have being good enough to win an All Ireland title.

Galway Squad Depth Exploited

Galway’s squad contains several standout players from the bench but for whatever reason, their confidence and performance levels have not convinced management to give significant game time. Hanbury, McInerney were not fully fit; their movement on the pitch at times was exposed particularly when Limerick moved with pace. 

The departure of James Skehill from Galway goal saw Fergus Flannery come into the goals for his debut bow; a question mark why the backup keeper did not get game time in the Leinster SHC Round Robin particularly against Dublin? 

Galway depended on Padraic Mannion, Joe Canning and David Burke to get over the line again today. It did not work and O’Donoghue and management need to look at the squad depth coming off the bench; Limerick had key cameos today while Galway did not. Reflect and regroup. 

Man of the Match 

Limerick had several standout cameos. Finn and English in the corner back positions were excellent throughout. Mike Casey executed his game plan to negate Glynn to a tee. The half back to a man were superb. Byrnes chipped in with a couple of keynote scores. Hannan led from the front in that opening half with two sensational long range scores. Dan Morrissey was solid throughout with quality distribution. 

Cian Lynch and Darragh O’Donovan ran the legs off David Burke and Johnny Coen who was hauled off in the third quarter. Lynch’s possession win amongst several Galway players was a key momentum shift as the Patrickswell player scored a superb point from it. O’Donovan work rate around the pitch on point. 

The forward line unit worked well; good movement and distribution creating numerous scoring opportunities. Gillane was always a danger inside. Flanagan roved and caused Galway defensive issues. Graeme Mulcahy was the leader of the inside line; key scores and calmed down colleagues when required. 

The half forward line provided key Limerick cameos. Gearoid Hegarty won possession at regular intervals; selfless in distribution. Tom Morrissey chipped in yet more vital scores for his county; quality goal and then the teenager Kyle Hayes arrived to the hurling stage; an emphatic performance with several long range scores which created the buffer that Limerick required in the closing stages. Hayes for man of the match. 

Galway had heroic performances from Daithi Burke, David Burke, Padraic Mannion and Joe Canning but the accolade has to go to Limerick tonight. 

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final: Verdict

It has being a weird build up to this final for Hawkeye Sidekick; his county of birth (Limerick) vs. county of residence (Galway) this weekend and analyzing both sides, there looks precious little to separate either side. The verdict is as follows: 

How Galway win this contest? 

Expose Limerick final nerves early doors; look to pepper quick ball into the inside full forward line and test the Limerick full back line. Glynn on the edge of the square looks a massive threat. 

Take Cian Lynch out of the game; sounds sinister but Galway will look to man mark the midfield talent out of the game, expect Coen to be on marking duties. If Coen can produce the same man marking performance as he did against Tony Kelly in the All Ireland Semi-Final replay, Galway are going to win this contest. 

Clinical scoring rate; recent games has seen Galway’s attacking options waste some gilt edged opportunities, this has to improve this weekend in the final to keep Limerick at arm’s length. 

Half Back Line dominance. Question marks on McInerney’s fitness at the time of this post and if included, Limerick will look to see how fit the Oranmore Maree club man is. All Ireland winning teams usually are associated with superb half back line units; Galway’s unit has being stellar this season again and more of the same form is required on Sunday. 

How Limerick win this contest? 

Negotiate the early exchanges: Galway with All Ireland final experience will look to ambush Limerick early with some early scores. Limerick and in particular the half-back line need to stand up strong in these exchanges; establish some early aerial battle wins and look to protect the likes of Mike Casey in the opening exchanges. 

Goals win games: Limerick have created several keynote goal scoring chances in recent fixtures but lack of composure in front of goal has being a trend for the likes of Gillane and Flanagan. These players if given goal opportunities need to convert this weekend. 

Get Cian Lynch into the game: If Limerick are to win this contest, then Cian Lynch will need to be a standout performer. Lynch will be given special attention from Galway but Lynch needs to be savvy to this; good first touch and quick distribution to colleagues. Limerick’s puck out strategy should look to create space for Lynch to establish a platform to impress. 

The Bench: If Limerick can keep their composure and handle the occasion, the bench will play a pivotal role in the final quarter. The introduction of Casey, Dowling, Nash, O’Donoghue, Ryan, Hickey are key squad assets and their cameos should bring the side over the line if the game is in the melting pot. Galway have struggled to identify anyone off the bench apart from Niall Burke, Jason Flynn, Sean Loftus and Davy Glennon which limits their hand. 

Verdict:

Slight edge for Galway on this fixture. The opening exchanges are going to be absolutely key. I question how Limerick will handle the occasion? Galway will look to bully and impose their game plan early doors and Limerick’s reaction to this will be crucial. The central attacking axis for Galway worries me from a Limerick perspective. Canning and Glynn could collectively cause serious issues if given time and space. 

For Limerick to win, it is going to be a come from behind effort coming into the final quarter. If the deficit is not too big (five / six points), the squad depth options will prove crucial. Limerick’s full forward line can test this Galway full back line if given accurate ball in. Dowling down the stretch could be the key figure as Galway start to wane. 

However until you beat the champions, you are not favorites in my eyes and for this I edge the final to Galway right now. They are the reigning champions, they deserve the respect and favorites tag given their last two seasons of work.

Limerick need to play without fear and play with pace and mobility. The final should be embraced by players and management. The fans lucky enough to get tickets will need to support the side and not be too hard on them when Galway have periods of dominance.

No regrets from Limerick should be the mantra; if the Limerick players and management can come off the pitch with this key point accomplished, Liam McCarthy will be heading to Shannonside.

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final: Key Battles

Final showdown

This time next week, we could potentially know who has their hands on Liam McCarthy this year.

Will it be a two in a row for Galway or will the youth and potential of Limerick shine through for a first All Ireland Senior Hurling title for the county since ’73? Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the key battles ahead of the final.

Handling the Occasion 

Playing in the showpiece hurling fixture of the year can be viewed with two schools of thoughts: relish the occasion and play without fear or let the occasion consume you and let the day pass you by. 

Limerick team since ’73 have being guilty of the latter. Kilkenny particularly in ’07 exposed Limerick naivety as they bullied the side in the opening exchanges to establish a match winning position. Seamus Hickey no doubt will be conveying his experiences of that game to his colleagues. 

Galway have experienced mixed days on All Ireland final day. Last year was a welcome relief; getting over the winning line at last after several near misses. A fixture where marquee players may be outshone by players who are not mentioned in the lead-up. 

How Galway and particularly the young Limerick side handle this occasion will be the primary key battle to win before the sliothar is thrown on Sunday afternoon at 3:30pm. 

Battle of the Goalkeepers 

The performance of the two goalkeepers will be interesting to watch. With the modern game so dependent now on quick, accurate delivery from the puck outs; both net minders will be under pressure early to find their outfield colleagues to increase overall team confidence. 

Skehill has being the standout number one for Galway this season and the net minder has impressed early in games with his distribution; one trend I noticed during the two recent Clare contests was his persistence to hit long once Clare were dominating in the middle third. Galway movement for the keeper was not as fluent as it was in the opening quarter and a repeat will be play into Limerick’s hands. 

Nicky Quaid for Limerick has provided efficient puck out delivery; his corner back and wing backs providing the Effin net minder with quick options at all times to launch attacks. Quaid will look to involve Darragh O’Donovan and potential game changer Cian Lynch with early touches if the situation allows. 

Both keepers are excellent shot stoppers; Skehill is such an imposing figure for Galway; his play to date has being solid and that is what a full back line requires; no frills, unspectacular but solid goalkeeping. Limerick’s pace inside and ability to create space for Gillane will add a new defensive problem for Galway to deal with. Skehill needs to be proactive coming out of his goal to cleanup misplaced delivery into the full back line. 

Nicky Quaid has pulled Limerick out of a couple of dangerous situations in recent games; his saves against Cork from Kingston in the opening period and then the flick away from Harnedy was sublime. Quaid will hope that Limerick defensive lapses are at a minimum but with the threat of Jonathan Glynn at full forward, Quaid will need to communicate well with Mike Casey and corner backs to quell that threat. 

Midfield Battle 

The most intriguing battle on Sunday will be in the midfield area; both units are more than capable of producing key cameos to setup victory for their respective team. 

David Burke and Cian Lynch will be the players of note here but lest not forget their midfield partners in crime. Johnny Coen and Darragh O’Donovan play pivotal roles for both sides. 

Coen was superb against Clare in the All Ireland Semi-Final replay; his deployment to man mark Tony Kelly subdued Clare’s talisman. Coen has being prominent in his attacking play this season; a couple of standout scores in the All Ireland series evidence of this. 

Darragh O’Donovan is the classic box to box midfielder; his distribution and side line cut threat is a real asset to Limerick and complements Lynch’s game perfectly. Lynch will look to create and probe while O’Donovan’s running game and ability to close out opposition attacks in defensive positions has being on point this season. A key cog in the Limerick middle third. 

David Burke. Captain fantastic and a key leader in this Galway side. Burke’s ability to vary his style of play comes to the fore; his ability to support run and unerring accuracy to hit scores from long distance provides Galway with a key weapon on Sunday. Burke is not afraid to mix it physically if need be for the greater good of the team. 

For Limerick to win on Sunday, Cian Lynch’s performance will be key. The Patrickswell club man will need to hold his nerve on Sunday as Galway will look to double mark the star player early doors. Lynch will need to be sharp with his distribution and first touch to get others involved and then gradually look to control affairs with his running from deep. His goal from Cork was everything good from Lynch; ability to sense a goal scoring chance by making the run inside, ability to shot with precision was superb. 

Superb clash awaits and it will be a fascinating first quarter of exchanges to see who gains the upper hand. 

Half Back Battle 

The key positional battle on Sunday. The big question is whether Gearoid McInerney’s will start? It looks like the Oranmore-Maree club man is winning his fitness battle for the showpiece event at the time of this blog post.  

McInerney’s inclusion will be keenly noted by Limerick. How will McInerney manage the game given his recent injury issues? His movement will be tested early doors by Kyle Hayes with his powerful run game. McInerney may deploy in front of the Limerick full forward and look to negate the Limerick distribution plays inside. 

If McInerney is not fit to participate, Galway will look again to Joseph Cooney, Padraic Mannion and Aidan Harte to dominate proceedings. Cooney was sublime last time out and along with Harte provided key cameos but it was display of Mannion which caught the eye; the number of possessions, his ability to launch attacks with quick passing was sensational. Alternatives for sure but it does not lent itself for rotation if issues arise as Limerick’s half forward line have the aerial ability and movement to cause issues for Galway. 

Declan Hannan’s role on Sunday is a key role for Limerick. How does Limerick’s half-back negate the threat of Joe Canning while contending with the threat inside of Jonathan Glynn?

Hannan is going to have throw different looks during the contest to unsettle Galway’s attacking play. Limerick’s middle third work rate will need to be on point when Hannan decides to deploy just in front of the full back line.

Hannan, Byrnes and Dan Morrissey had mixed afternoons against Cork who exposed positional defensive lapses and poor distribution options to score several points. Byrnes and Morrissey need to set the aerial dominance from the first exchanges to allow Hannan to game manage in the pocket. 

Forward Line Battle 

The forward lines on show have the potential and ability to pose issues for their respective opposition. Galway will look to go for the throat early and the opening exchanges should see Glynn given an opportunity to test out Limerick’s full back unit. Casey will need assistance to negate the threat and Hannan, English, Finn will need to step up to the plate when they can. 

Joe Canning obviously is the key cog of the Galway forward line. His free taking, side line cut prowess, threat with sliothar as well as his work rate and tackling leads by example. The rest of the forward line unit follows and with Cathal Mannion providing key scoring cameos from long distance along with the threat of the likes of Conor Whelan, Galway are well set to test out Limerick’s defensive credentials. 

For Limerick, their forward line’s movement and awareness of space to allow colleagues to expose a defensive gap has being on joy this season. The distribution from the middle third has allowed Flanagan, Mulcahy and Gillane ample opportunities to impress. Gillane’s goal threat seen in recent fixtures and sense that if Galway give opportunities for the Patrickswell player, he will punish those chances in the showpiece event. 

Flanagan for me has a huge role to play on Sunday. The full forward’s pace has to test Daithi Burke and ask questions of Burke whether he follows his marker or allows the player the time and space to score. Key decision for Galway management to negate this threat. 

Limerick’s half forward line need to deliver this weekend. Hegarty’s performance against Cork saved the unit as Hayes and Morrissey had inconsistent cameos for long periods. Early momentum shift for Limerick in this line is good news for Limerick in the overall context of this game. 

Bench Impact

Loving the impact off the bench from Limerick this season. Limerick remain me of an ice hockey side; the first line coming off in the third quarter to be replaced with a line equally as potent. 

Experience, game winners and game management to the fore with Shane Dowling, Peter Casey, Barry Nash, Pat Ryan, William O’Donoghue, Seamus Hickey to call upon and their cameos against Cork in extra time were too much for the Rebels. 

Dowling’s leadership in the All Ireland series has being inspirational; his post game comments after the Cork game have set the tone and Limerick will deliver a performance on Sunday. 

The Limerick bench is loaded with options but Galway’s squad depth has being minimal. There is several standout players in the ranks but management have stuck to Flynn, Niall Burke, Sean Loftus and Davy Glennon as options in the last two Clare contests. 

If Limerick can be in and around Galway heading into the final quarter, just wonder if the impetus of fresh legs and energy will be the difference here?

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final: Initial Thoughts

Two weeks out from the All Ireland Senior Hurling Final. Galway (my county of residence) face Limerick (my county of birth); an interesting couple of weeks beckon in the office with work colleagues. Several key battles initially come to mind. Hawkeye Sidekick tries to be balanced but is proving exceedingly hard. 

Final Temperament 

Limerick appear in their first All Ireland Senior Hurling final since 2007. The majority of the squad are sampling their first senior All Ireland final; they can go one of two ways – let the occasion take hold, nervy performance or embrace the occasion which all these players have dreamed about in the back garden or local GAA pitch. Given their win against Cork, the hope is that Limerick will embrace the occasion and play without fear like they have done throughout this season. 

Galway are well seasoned to the rigors of All Ireland final day. An unforgettable win twelve months erased several heartbreaking recent losses to Kilkenny and this group of players ad management will look to drive on and secure back to back victories. Their experience of last year’s encounter surely counts for something on the day. 

Attacking Threats

Both sides possess serious attacking threats. It will be interesting to see how Galway counteract Limerick’s attacking movement. Flanagan at full forward has a huge role to play in the final; he will look to rove around the half forward line at times to create space. Does Daithi Burke go with the player or look for Mannion / Cooney / Harte to pick up the player? 

Jonathan Glynn’s inside full forward threat is a real concern for Limerick. Mike Casey is a solid full back as seen in recent weeks, when Glynn is provided with excellent quick ball, the full forward can be devastating. How do Limerick counter-act the threat? Look to deploy Declan Hannan a little further back as protection but then this leaves Joe Canning with space on the forty to score at will. A threat which Limerick need to be think and long hard about ahead of this final. 

The goal scoring threat from Limerick has being seen in this championship with several keynote chances created against Kilkenny and Cork. Aaron Gillane if given sufficient ball looks capable of winning this contest for Limerick; his composure in front of goal will be duly noted but a player of undoubted quality could provide a decisive moment in this contest for Limerick. Graeme Mulcahy has provided experience and composure with vital scores this season; more of the same is required in the final. 

Galway’s ability to take scores from long range is to the fore. Cathal Mannion is such a talent; he makes the game look so easy and has the ability to score 0-4 or 0-5 from play to setup a decisive platform for victory. Joe Canning. The leader of this attacking unit. His ability to score and also distribute seen to full effect this season. Side line cut prowess noted. Conor Whelan is a tenacious inside forward line threat; superb ball winner and his scoring ratio has improved this season. Conor Cooney, Niall Burke, Jason Flynn and Joseph Cooney all well capable of winning ball and scoring pivotal scores. 

Limerick’s forward line options have shown their potential in recent fixtures. Hegarty against Cork was superb; dominant under the dropping ball and chipping in with several key points. Kyle Hayes at center forward provides youth, pace and raw power. Hayes is well capable of scoring a couple of points from play. Tom Morrissey against Kilkenny was a Limerick standout; the Ahane clubman will look to produce that level of performance in the final. His skill set and scoring to the fore this season. A talented, pacy half forward line who will pose aerial and movement problems for Galway. Limerick’s half forward needs to fire in the final.  

Defensive Issues? 

Both sides have defensive questions to answer ahead of the final. Is Gearoid McInerney going to be fit in time for the final? The half back unit last weekend were heroic and it was a masterstroke from Galway management to deploy Padraic Mannion as a sweeper. Do you change the unit after such an emphatic outing? 

Galway’s corner back positions potentially could be in for a long afternoon. Limerick will look to probe the corner backs with sharp, incisive distribution from midfield and half-back line units. Tuohy and Hanesbury will need protection from their half back line, otherwise Limerick could wreck havoc on the flanks. 

Limerick’s full back line have played solid throughout. The Glynn threat is a massive test but it is the half back line which is the most concern for Limerick defensively ahead of this final. Cork exposed Limerick’s half-back line more than once in positional play; resulting in several goal chances (one taken) and several points from long range where Daniel Kearney was to the fore. 

Declan Hannan, Diarmuid Byrnes and Dan Morrissey need to set the platform for Limerick in this final; provide aerial dominance in the first quarter when Galway will look to make their game winning attempt. Limerick have to be so solid in this opening period and the half back line are key to this. 

Midfield Intriguing 

The midfield duel will be fascinating. Two quality midfield units in opposition. David Burke and Johnny Coen have established themselves as the de-facto midfield partnerhip. Both are equally strong in attacking and defensive duties; always supporting their colleagues. Limerick’s midfield unit has pace and skill set.

Darragh O’Donovan will be the box to box midfielder while Cian Lynch will look to create and identify the right times to run with the ball into Galway defensive areas to create goals or tack on points. Does Coen look to shackle Lynch?

O’Donovan vs. Burke will be a good clash of styles as well; both well capable of scoring heavy from open play. Burke’s performance is the gauge for Galway; if the St.Thomas’ man is having a blinder, Galway are well on their way. Likewise for Cian Lynch and his impact for Limerick.

Squad Bench Impact

If Limerick can survive the opening period exchanges, they are in with a right chance of victory. Their bench options look particularly strong. The cameos of Hickey defensively, O’Donoghue’s midfield physicality and then the attacking threat from Dowling, Casey, Nash, Ryan and Reidy. 2-6 cameo on August 19th will see Limerick win Liam McCarthy. Dowling’s leadership in the final quarter will be so vital. 

Galway’s squad depth is superb but Galway management have not looked to clear the bench against Clare. If you take Davy Glennon’s brief cameo out, only Loftus was introduced to the back line while Flynn was thrust into action in the forward line. Limerick should be fresher, wondering if the same will be true for Galway? 

All Ireland Senior Hurling Semi Final Replay Reflections

Tuesday. August 7th. Two days after Galway summoned the energy in the final exchanges to advance to the All Ireland Senior Hurling final and extinguish Clare’s Liam McCarthy hopes for this year. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the fixture. 

Clare left to rue defensive start 

With the breeze at their backs, Clare we presumed would  look to set the platform against an opponent noted for their game winning starts. It failed to materialize in the first twenty minutes of the contest as Galway helped by the astute tactical switches (Coen on Galvin, Mannion as sweeper, Cooney back to wing back) made the early running and opened up a decisive lead which Clare never managed to crawl back. Clare did respond in the final ten minutes of the opening period with good points from the likes of Kelly, O’Donnell, Collins and free taking of Duggan but the opening exchanges were a decisive factor in the outcome as Clare struggled to contend with Galway’s tempo and physicality early for the second consecutive weekend.

The Glynn Factor 

Galway’s decision to deploy Jonathan Glynn on the edge of the square has reaped massive dividends this season. His cameo against Kilkenny in the Leinster SHC replay set the platform for victory. His threat was known by Clare after their first encounter but given time and space, Galway clinically exposed Clare defensively with Glynn’s goal in the opening period which will have Limerick on high alert.

Glynn’s threat in the air opens the field for his colleagues, his ability to win 50/50 ball seen with the emphatic catch and strike from close range giving Tuohy no chance. Glynn will look for more distribution against Limerick and it will be interesting to see how John Kiely and management counteract the threat. Glynn has being a pivotal player for Galway’s inside forward line down the stretch; expect more of the same from the Ardrahan native on August 19th. 

Joe Canning Leadership

Galway’s early lead was gradually being eroded as Clare started to impress in the middle third exchanges. A superb goal from Shane O’Donnell early in the second half set the platform and Galway needed someone to provide the composure and scoring to get the side in front.

Joe Canning yet again produced the goods; his work rate without the ball was incredible and his striking from frees and open play was sublime; his sideline cut and the point where he improvised with the sliothar to hit off his stick was one of the scores of the day. Canning’s leadership when other attacking options were losing their composure with some poor shot selection shone through again and Clare were unable to stop the talisman. 

Clare Shot Selection

The game tape for Clare will have being horrendous yesterday; the side had more than enough chances to win this contest but there were some terrible wides particularly in that second half. Duggan’s free taking which was so on point in the contest saw two opportunities missed; the latter was a bitter blow as a Galway hurl blocked the free going over and relieving the pressure. Clare’s shot selection to hit ambitious efforts from long range was questionable given the joy that O’Donnell, Ian Galvin, Aron Shanagher were having in that second half.

The two Galway corner backs had their hands full and a bit more precise quick ball inside could have swayed this fixture to Clare. Each wide from Clare was a momentum boost for Galway. Clare have the fitness, mobility and hurling skill to get back to the summit but until this facet of play is improved upon, there will be more days like this at the business end of the season. 

Tony Kelly 

Where is his favored position? Kelly continually looked to play deep at the replay; look at the last play of the game, he was back in his full back line collecting the ball and hitting long hoping for an equalizer. Surely the player should have being further up the park to receive the sliothar and ask questions of Galway defensively.

Kelly scored 0-1 during the contest. Galway had done their homework with Coen stuck to Kelly for long period negating his influence. Kelly relishes the freedom in the middle third but at times, his influence is significantly reduced by retreating further into Clare defensive areas of the pitch. Galway loved this particularly at the death.

Galway fall over the line 

The result can be viewed with two schools of thought: a performance full of determination and grit to get past a tricky opponent, a performance of champions. The other school of thought is a side who were on fumes at the end of the contest and dodged a loss due to lack of composure from their opponents.

The squad depth attacking options of Galway used was interesting; Jason Flynn and Niall Burke were the only attacking options introduced and raises questions on management’s confidence on the other attacking threats in the squad (some standout players).

Galway were reluctant to change things up even when Clare had their dominant spell in the third quarter. Galway defensively were heroic in the second half. Daithi Burke, Padraic Mannion provided such solid platform and were assisted by Harte and Joseph Cooney who reveled in the wing back assignment.

Limerick’s attacking options off the bench will pose problems for Galway if this final is on the line going into the final quarter. Davy Glennon made a brief cameo at the death to replace the exhausted Glynn but four substitutions compared to Clare’s five who had sufficient cameos to impress was interesting.

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.

All Ireland Hurling Semi-Final Profile: Galway

The second part of a blog series focuses on reigning All Ireland Senior Hurling Champions Galway, a side who had to come through an epic Leinster SHC tussle with Kilkenny to secure their place in the last four of the competition. Hawkeye Sidekick looks at how the side have performed, identifies the key protagonists and potential areas where Clare could expose and cause the upset.

Galway’s path to the All Ireland Hurling Semi-Final  

The inaugural Leinster SHC round robin format posed little issues for the reigning champions. An emphatic opening weekend victory over Offaly in Tullamore the perfect setup for the first Leinster SHC fixture to be played at Pearse Stadium against perennial rival Kilkenny. A fantastic occasion which saw Galway inspired by the mercurial Joe Canning to produce a dominant third quarter to win this contest by eight points.

The road trip to Innovate Park looked like a tricky assignment but Galway dispatched the challenge of Wexford with relative ease; putting the game in the opening period and keeping the hosts at arms length for the second half expending minimum effort. The last round robin fixture against Dublin was an opportunity for fringe players to gain valuable minutes in a competitive setting; an one point win against a determined Dublin side was mission accomplished.

The Leinster SHC final against Kilkenny was incredible viewing; physicality to the fore with scoring opportunities at a premium. Galway were pegged back late at Croke Park by a TJ Reid inspired Kilkenny outfit. The replay in Thurles was an exceptional fixture as Galway management’s decision to deploy Glynn in full forward paid early success; a vital factor in victory as Galway had to withhold a massive Kilkenny fightback in the third quarter. Galway’s finishing kick to close out the game was emphatic with Joe Canning immense. Battle hardened games with Kilkenny a perfect foil for this All Ireland series.

Key Players

Galway have grown in stature this season. The mantle of reigning championship has being embraced with the usual suspects taking their game to new levels and emerging talent providing timely cameos to management which has seen increased competition for places. Where do you start? Joe Canning. The forward is mercurial; the skill set and what he can do with a silothar is on a different level. His performances this season have steadily improved; his ability to score from either sideline cuts or free kicks is a real asset for the side. His work rate ethos sets the tone and others follow. His scoring return has being excellent this year and Clare’s half back line have a decision to make with the Portumna native. Do they stick to the player but then open space in behind for other attacking threats to roam or do they stick to their positions and see Canning score six to seven points from open play?

Cathal Mannion personally is such a massive talent. The forward has the ability to turn a game with his trademark quality long range scores from either side. His performance against Kilkenny in the Leinster SHC replay was a pure illustration of the talent that the player possesses. His ability to score from long range saw a primary platform for Galway to win this contest in the second half. Mannion’s game management and distribution for the likes of Conor Whelan inside has posed serious questions for opposition defenses.

David Burke is an exemplary captain for Galway. The St.Thomas club man is so selfless in the hard work he puts in game after game. All the fundamentals are present; solid under the dropping ball with excellent pace and power. His distribution from deep to his inside forward line at times is a joy to watch and his ability to link up with back line and forward line has being to the fore. Burke’s tends to revel in the Croke Park surroundings and his performances to date this season would indicate another fine afternoon is in store.

Key Strengths: 

The side collectively are so structured and on point. The defensive power of Daithi Burke and Gearoid McInerney provides the solidity and platform for the Galway back line to prosper. Padraic Mannion has being a standout in his man marking duties this season and his ability to score from distance (0-3) against Dublin will be a key asset if Clare decide to deploy a sweeper inside during periods of the contest. David Burke and Johnny Coen provide defensive nous but significantly attacking threat with their runs from deep to keep the scoreboard ticking over. When you throw in the attacking options of Cooney (Conor and Joseph), Niall Burke, Jason Flynn, Conor Whelan, Jonathan Glynn, there is plenty to ponder from a Clare back line perspective along with the likes of Joe Canning and Cathal Mannion.

Key Weakness: 

It is grasping at straws but the goal scoring rate at times could improve. If you take the five goals scored against beleaguered Offaly in the opening round of the championship, Galway have only managed three goals thereafter and when you consider the inside threat of the likes of Conor Whelan and now Jonathan Glynn inside, it is a statistic which no doubt Galway management will be eager to address. Galway keeper situation has being of debate this season. Callanan’s injury layoff has seen James Skehill return to the goals; solid performer but there have being times where the keeper has struggled to command his square. Nine goals conceded in the championship this season is a concern defensively but whether Clare can create the running lines to expose Skehill is an entirely different story given the back line units in front of the net minder.

Scoring Statistics:

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final Preview: Part One – Galway

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The day of reckoning has nearly arrived

September 3rd. The day of reckoning for both Galway and Waterford. An unique final pairing and one that promises to be explosive and dramatic. Two sides who have suffered final anguish in the recent past, a day to a certain extent to right some wrongs of past failings and to engrave management and squad player names into county folklore. In the first of a two part preview, Hawkeye Sidekick reviews the Galway challenge looking at how they advanced to the final and who needs to stand up and be counted this Sunday.

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The form side of the season

Galway’s path to the All Ireland Final

The message of intent some would say was issued loud and clear in April at the surroundings of the Gaelic Grounds where Galway won the NHL with a performance which had many in hurling circles sit up and notice. The emphatic manner in which they disposed of the Tipperary challenge that day has continued in this season’s championship campaign.

Once upon a time, a Leinster SHC fixture against Dublin in Tullamore would have being seen as a banana skin, a fixture where Galway would need to be on top of their game to advance. This time around, they negotiated the Dublin challenge with the minimum of fuss as they went through the gears either side of half-time to win with plenty to spare. All lines were dominant with Daithi and David Burke catching the eye with defensive and midfield play. Joe Canning was also prominent, eager to get involved; his work rate set the tone for others to follow. A fourteen point win was another signal of intent that the NHL final win was no fluke.

The Leinster semi-final fixture against Offaly could be best described as an one sided affair, others would be more critical of the Offaly performance on show. Galway continuing their form with a cohesive performance and seeing the emergence of Conor Whelan as a viable scoring threat inside in the full forward line as well out the field. Thirty-three points was scored by Galway on the day and their nineteen point winning margin was an accurate assessment on a dominant display.

The much anticipated Leinster SHC final was seen by many as a true acid test of Galway’s title credentials. After an evenly matched first twenty-five minutes, Galway’s experience and game management came to the fore drawing clear of the sweeper orientated Wexford setup with an effective performance. The usual suspects again to the fore for Galway and the nine point win showcased the talents of all the Galway forwards with several eye-catching scores from play. Galway confirmed that they were the real deal and more significantly answered the critics who thought that the sweeper system would pose issues. Mission accomplished.

The All Ireland Semi-Final against Tipperary was a sublime contest. Neither side gave an inch on the day. Galway on reflection were the better side throughout, their key defensive players producing excellent performances. It was the day that Gearoid McInerney announced himself at center-back. A towering performance from the Oranmore-Maree club man. His battle with Bonnar Maher was superb viewing and his second half cameo where he dominated aerial possession was on point. Joe Canning after a shaky opening twenty minutes produced when it mattered. The talisman was lights out in the final quarter of this contest and his game winning point is a sporting moment of the Irish sporting year. A sublime effort, under immense pressure to seal his side’s final appearance. Battle hardened and confident, Galway enter this final with renewed vigor.

Key Factors for Galway in winning Liam McCarthy

Balanced Galway forward line scoring threat required

All Ireland finals are sometimes decided by players who are not highlighted in the preview notes. Joe Canning is Galway’s attacking talisman but Michael O’Donoghue and Galway management will be the first to know that they were overly reliant on the Portumna native in the closing quarter exchanges. Canning provided all the scores in that period of play; a repeat against Waterford and Galway could be struggling.

Galway’s forward line is stacked with talent. Cathal Mannion is a player who has had a quiet summer by his own standards. Injury plagued season but is hitting form at the right time. Mannion is a superb shooter from distance and Galway will need the player to hit a couple of scores from play as Waterford setup with the sweeper system. Mannion is one of several threats.

Jason Flynn if involved could play a huge role in the outcome of this contest. The Tommy Larkin’s clubman was instrumental in the NHL win; a confidence player, he scored early and never looked back. Flynn will hope to feature and provide the goal scoring threat required to give breathing space for Galway. Niall Burke and Conor Cooney are incredibly talented hurlers. Cooney’s ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over will be crucial; his quick shooting action will pose Waterford with endless problems.

Conor Whelan has had yet again an excellent season. The Kinvara club man is a superb target man in the full forward line; his physique belies his young age and he has added scoring prowess to his work rate and skill set from last year. Whelan showed in the recent All Ireland U21 semi-final that given any goal opportunity, he will score. It is crucial that Galway’s attacking units provide a balanced scoring threat to complement the influence of Joe Canning who will be double marked by Waterford for long periods.

Coen’s performance will dictate Galway glory

Johnny Coen has had an interesting season. The Loughrea clubman has being assigned the role of midfield lynchpin; complementing the mercurial David Burke and supporting his colleagues in defense and attack. Coen’s cameo for the Joe Canning game winning point in the All Ireland Hurling Semi-Final a perfect example of his selfless work ethic for the team.

Coen will be faced with a different assignment this week. His role presumably will be to keep tabs on the sensational Waterford midfielder Jamie Barron who has being a pivotal figure for Waterford against Kilkenny and Cork in the All Ireland series. Barron’s work rate and ability to make lung bursting runs from deep to support his forward line has being a hallmark of Waterford this season. His extra time cameo against Kilkenny was nothing short of sensational. His runs from deep created a quick 1-1 which reset the platform for Waterford to smash the hoodoo of not beating their near neighbors.

Barron against Cork was on point as well particularly in the closing quarter where Cork exposed due to the red card of Damien Cahalane conceded space inside defensively and Barron was the player to benefit; running from deep, evading Cork midfield to score a superb goal. If Jamie Barron has an excellent performance on Sunday, chances are that Waterford will be bringing out Liam McCarthy down to the Quays on Monday night.

The role of Coen as you can see is so important for Galway. It cannot be understated; his performance is going to be for the sake of the team. He will need to do the dirty work unnoticed in the middle third. He will need to track Barron at every opportunity; his conditioning will be tested by Barron. Coen will need David Burke to assist from time to time but Burke’s distribution and need to advance further up the pitch necessitates the need for the Loughrea clubman to perform these duties. A vital role. If Coen can nullify Barron, Galway have seen off one of Waterford’s outside player threats.

David Burke – Captain Fantastic

Put quite simply, David Burke will need to produce a performance of composure, game management and poise. At times, Burke struggled to get into the All Ireland Semi-Final contest; was nervy at times. Burke’s distribution, ability to evade defenders to score from deep is a prerequisite for Galway to win on Sunday. The platform for Galway’s forward line dominance depends on how Burke can start; his distribution to Canning is a standout component. Canning relishes ball from Burke whose precision is beyond reproach.

The St.Thomas clubman is a player whose vast experience will be a huge asset for Galway. He will look to lead by example, set the tone with some early possession wins and look to get players such as Canning, Whelan, Cooney involved. His partnership with Coen on Sunday will be tested particularly when faced with the in-form Jamie Barron. The plus point for Galway is that without suspended Waterford midfielder Conor Gleeson, Waterford are going to have a brand new midfield pairing. Conor Gleeson will be a loss; his work rate and skill set will be a miss and has formed an efficient partnership with Barron.

All about the Joe, it is all about Joe Canning

Joe Canning is a player whose playing resume has all major hurling accolades except for one: Liam McCarthy. The All Ireland final on Sunday potentially is a defining watershed for a player who has being a standout in the sport for the last decade. Canning has it all; first touch, aerial dominance, sideline and free taking prowess and ability to create chances out of absolutely nothing.

Waterford’s tactical approach to Canning will be fascinating. Do they deploy a man marker for the Portumna player? Does someone like Darragh Fives following Canning and put him under pressure throughout. It is a tall order. Canning may be tested from a disciplinary point of view. Will Waterford look to rattle Canning early to see if they can provoke a reaction? It is a final, emotions will be running high.

Joe Canning may need to offload scoring opportunities to his colleagues more this weekend. The likes of Mannion, Cooney, Whelan and Burke could conceivably benefit from the improved time and space afforded due to Waterford focusing in on Canning. It is a subtle balancing act for Waterford. Galway have serious forwards who could also win this game as well. Canning is a predominant figure ahead of this final and one that Galway hurling fans will hope will be raising Liam McCarthy after 5pm on Sunday.

 

 

GAA – Weekend Reflections

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Hurling classic but football was all a bit one sided

August Bank Holiday 2017. A weekend which will be remembered for one sided senior football encounters. A weekend where Joe Canning down the stretch was incredible to lead Galway to a nail biting one point win over reigning All Ireland Champions Tipperary. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.

Galway advance to the All Ireland Hurling Final

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Hail Hail Joe Canning!

With the scores level at 0-21 to 1-18, Joe Canning stood over a free deep in Galway territory. The subsequent free was short and many thought that was that and a replay was on the card. James Barry subsequent clearance was retrieved by the ever industrious Johnny Coen who had the presence of mind to pick out Joe Canning who from the sideline and under immense Tipperary pressure slotted a beautiful score over the bar.

It was a very ESPN classic moment. Galway supporters were in delirium but Tipperary had one more chance to level but O’Dwyer hit a difficult chance wide. The game ending was in fitting with a tenacious encounter. Both sides did not give an inch with both forward lines having work extremely hard for scores.

Galway’s back line were heroic all day. The full back of Tuohy, Burke and Hansbury set the tone with tenacious defending and team work. Tipperary’s inside forward line did pose a threat at times but in the vital moments, the Galway full back line stood up and won decisive ball.

The catch from Daithi Burke in the closing stages was imperious. Tuohy had an excellent second half, a shaky first half at times particularly on the John McGrath goal where he dwelled too long on the sliothar, was dispossessed and punished. Hansbury has being an unsung hero this season. The Rahoon / Newcastle club man reveled as the game progressed and his distribution out of defense was on point.

I have had asked questions of the center back position in this Galway team but Gearoid McInerney ticked all the boxes yesterday. Physically dominant, he won his duel with the ever willing Bonnar Maher. McInerney set the tone and won several key aerial tussles in the closing stages to setup the attacking platform. Aidan Harte and Padraic Mannion produced stellar displays as well. Their distribution on point and quietened the influence of the likes of O’Dwyer and Noel McGrath for long periods.

Galway advance but for the last twenty minutes of this contest, it was the Joe Canning show. Canning had a nervy start to proceedings but once he hit his stride and started to come out the field for ball, his influence was match winning. Canning hitting a couple of superb scores from distance in the closing quarter.

Tipperary management then decided to put Padraic Maher on Canning, a switch which was too little too late. It was fitting that Canning won this contest for Galway; the mercurial talisman for so many years. The match winning score was pure sheer class.

Conor Whelan in the full forward line had an impressive afternoon. His physicality and power for such a young man is unbelievable, kept Donagh Maher and James Barry busy throughout.

Whelan and Joseph Cooney moved deeper down the field in the closing stages and were prominent in winning critical ball. Glynn as an impact bench did what he had to do. Disrupt in the air and be a nuisance for Tipperary to clear the ball.

Tipperary will be devastated after this result. There were a couple of talking points during the contest. The free count was interesting. Galway won fifteen frees while Tipperary only eight during the contest. A disparity perhaps to some?

Galway free count was a combination of factors; indiscipline in the Tipperary tackling — going high but there were one or two frees where the Galway player went to ground easy and got a free. Some days, you get those decisions but there were a couple of frees on another day would not be given.

Further debate will ensue on the helmet pull on Bonnar Maher in the coming days. When I saw it first, it looked like genuine Tipperary claims considering the recent officiating of this offense in the All Ireland Quarter Finals. No action. The linesman could not run away from the incident fast enough.

The goal chances created by Tipperary were spurned. Callanan’s chance in the opening half was a key turning point. Galway’s full back line had a shaky five minutes immediately after McGrath’s goal and another goal then could have swung the game in Tipperary’s favor.

Noel McGrath’s goal chance was a tough chance, the pass was overcooked but the shot required a smart save from Callanan in the Galway goals. Two chances which on another day could have gone in.

Tipperary will rue a couple of point misses as well. Seamus Callanan received a head knock early in the second half, did not look right thereafter and the free taking was a mixed bag for the Drom / Inch club man. Brendan Maher and John McGrath had good opportunities wasted in either half. Fine margins.

The much maligned Tipperary back line had their best outing of the season but came up just short. The decision to move McCormick further down the field had the desired effect, the player won second ball throughout but the half-forward line suffered as a result, something that was articulated perfectly by the Sunday Game last night.

Maher, Barry and Cahill stuck to their task well. Padraic Maher was immense for Tipperary; his possession count and point taking was superb. Ronan Maher at half-back had his moments of brilliance but in the closing stages, his influence waned particularly when Canning moved out the field and Glynn was causing issues with his height on the aerial balls. Seamus Kennedy was good throughout. All players left everything on the pitch. A superb advertisement for hurling.

Galway advance to the All Ireland final. The goal for the season has not yet being accomplished and there are areas of improvement for the Tribesmen. David Burke was industrious throughout but will be disappointed with some scoring opportunities that got away. Cathal Mannion was out of sorts from the first whistle but is a player that should come good in the All Ireland final.

The forward line was all Joe Canning in the final quarter. Galway’s potent attackers such as Flynn, Conor Cooney and Niall Burke need to provide more leadership in the scoring duties for the All Ireland final as Cork and Waterford will look to mark Joe Canning (best of luck) out of the game. Conor Whelan was superb.

Johnny Coen’s performance yesterday needs to be highlighted; had my doubts about the Loughrea clubman in the midfield engine room but he was superb yesterday. Breen, Forde were taken off due to the work rate of Coen yesterday. He was selfless in his passing and distribution, assisted his colleagues defensively and was pivotal for the game winning score. Kudos where it is deserved. Roll on September!

Football Snooze-fest

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Bad day for Armagh

I type this blog posting as Mayo are twenty-two points up on a hapless Roscommon. The three senior football fixtures this past weekend lacked any bite or competition. Tyrone swept aside the Armagh challenge with minimum of fuss.

Peter Harte outstanding but you cannot rate Tyrone as a team given how poor Armagh were who struggled in all facets of play. The kick outs so good against Kildare was snuffed out and caused Armagh issues defensively. Mulgrew hit a nice quick brace of goals but will the Ardboe club man get the same space against Dublin? I don’t think so.

The only thing you can say about Tyrone is that they were defensively superb at present; the discipline of defending is a joy to watch. They put the pressure on the ball carrier who either fouls the ball or coughs up possession. Officiating will be interesting in the All Ireland semi-final on this facet of play. Colm Cavanagh’s injury and a red card (two yellow cards) to McCarron will be negative points for Tyrone on a stress free afternoon.

Dublin had little trouble getting past a disappointing, unambitious Monaghan outfit. McManus had minimal influence and Dublin were out of sight after fifteen minutes. Monaghan’s full forward line threat was non-existent; opening period saw no Monaghan inside forward thirty meters from the Dublin goal.

The usual suspects were to the fore for Dublin. McCarthy and McCaffrey were stellar in their runs from deep, caused Monaghan endless problems. Rory Beggan in the Monaghan goals was superb and only for him, Dublin would have scored more goals than the one goal scored by Dean Rock. The good news for Dublin was the squad bench that came on. Flynn, McAuley, Brogan all looking the part when coming on to create selection posers for Dublin management.

The All Ireland football semi-finals will be immense affairs. Mayo are the only team in the top four that have being battle hardened and will cause Kerry issues defensively. Their performance today was encouraging; they went for the throat and Roscommon were killed off in the opening twenty minutes. Mayo’s middle third was impressive; did not give the young Roscommon side a chance to settle.

Andy Moran, Cillian O’Connor inside were constant menaces. Parsons, Vaughan, Doherty, Boyle and Higgins were critical in the middle third superiority. The running lines of Mayo were excellent but did expose massive issues in Roscommon defensively. The kick out strategy was a disaster for Roscommon as well. No general movement for the Roscommon keeper to launch kick outs.

Super Eight format next season looks a bit precarious on the basis of this year’s All Ireland quarter-finals. Super Four in a couple of weeks hopefully will provide better footballing entertainment. The GAA demands it from the two semi-finals. A nation holds it breathe!