Galway v Kilkenny
Leinster Final replay 2018
Semple Stadium, Thurles
History will be made on Sunday afternoon in Thurles, where for the first time a Leinster final will be played outside of the province. Indeed we may have the strange scenario of the winners of a Leinster final, played at a Munster venue, being a Connacht team.
Michael Buble takes centre stage at headquarters while the action moves outside of the province, however Kilkenny and Galway have met in ‘the home of hurling’ on four previous occasions in the All-Ireland series over the years.
The sides have already met twice this summer, Galway enjoyed a relatively easy win when the sides met in Pearse Stadium in the round robin match in May, on a scoreline of 1-22 v 2-11. While last weekend saw the sides meet again in the Leinster final and in a much tighter affair the sides could not be separated, finishing 0-18 apiece. It was the first drawn Leinster final since 1993 when Kilkenny required a replay to overcome Wexford.
The drawn game was a tough physical encounter, but both sides were guilty of some stray passes and poor shot selection. This can partially be explained by both defences hunting in packs and applying intense pressure to the forwards.
Of the two sides Galway will feel that there is greater room for improvement. Many of their marque players performed below their best on the day. While the main worry from a Kilkenny perspective is their over reliance on TJ Reid and his accuracy from placed balls. Of the 18 points Kilkenny scored on Sunday, only half of them came from play. TJ scorer 10 points, but only two of those came from play. Billy Ryan chipped in with two points on his Championship debut, while Walter Walsh, James Maher, John Donnelly, Ger Aylward and Enda Morrissey all scored a point each. Eoin Murphy also scored a point from a free.
Galway’s scores came from a wider spread of players.With 13 out of their 18 points coming from play. Joe Canning was their top scorer on the day and claimed 6 points, four from frees and a 45′. However he was also guilty of being off target from three scoreable frees. Niall Burke hit four fine points from play. Cathal Mannion hit 3, also all from play, Joseph Cooney and Conor Whelan hit 2 each, while Conor Cooney was held to a single point.
Kilkenny’s full back line dealt very well with a barrage of ariel balls rained down on top of them. Padraig Walsh, Paul Murphy and Paddy Deegan put on an exhibition of high fielding and certainly got the better of Galway’s much vaunted full-forward line.
Indeed I felt it was strange that Galway persisted with this tactic when it was so obvious that Kilkenny were so dominant in the air. The Galway forwards got much more joy from diagonal low balls hit into the corners during the meeting in Pearse Stadium in May, and I’ve a feeling that Michael O’Donoghue’s men will vary their delivery into their forward line this Sunday.
The are no changes on the Kilkenny team from last weeks drawn game as Brian Cody keeps faith with the same starting fifteen, while Galway make one positional change which sees Niall Burke move to half-forward and Cathal Mannion starts in the corner forward role, but as usual they will probably rotate positions during the game.
Kilkenny have a great record in replays, especially against the Tribesmen and while their price of 23/10 is tempting their lack of scores from play would be my main cause for concern. Galway at 1/2 doesn’t represent much risk/reward value, so other markets such as both sides to score a goal at 2/1 are more tempting to me.