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.
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.
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.
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.
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?