The Leinster hurling championship began over the weekend with Galway, Offaly and Wexford booking their spots in the semi-finals. We look at all the talking points from the weekend’s action.
The All-Ireland hurling betting has blown wide open with Galway now 9/4 favourites to win the 2017 Final, they were as big at 4/1 at the start of the year. But with both of last years finalists already been beaten. Clare and Galway look like the teams that could be the value bets for this years title.
While the majority of teams fear the Dublin footballers, it is the complete opposite for the Dublin hurlers after yesterday’s hammering at the hands of Galway. Boylesports Mobile offered 5/1 on Galway to win by 14pts or more. While Dublin were competitive in the first half only trailing by three at the interval. However, there was always a sense that Galway would eventually pull away. When Cian O’Callaghan was dismissed early in the second half for Dublin, their heads dropped and Galway took advantage. While it was a young Dublin side taking on a serious All Ireland contender, the way in which Dublin collapsed is not acceptable and shows signs of a team with no confidence in themselves or their setup. Looking at the Twitter feedback from Dublin fans where some claim that the Cunningham regime had brought Dublin hurling back ten years. It was only a few years ago that Dublin were in an All-Ireland semi-final where they were narrowly beaten by Cork and if they had of gotten to the final, who knows? Now in 2017, they are nowhere near to being All-Ireland contenders and have slipped below Wexford in pecking order in Leinster. Underage is very strong in Dublin with provincial honours in both U21 and minor so there is a future for Dublin hurling but nobody will fear them in the forthcoming qualifier draw.
GALWAY KEEP MOMENTUM GOING
The objective for Galway was to book a place in the Leinster semi-finals and they did that with ease. A 14-point hammering of Dublin was not flattering to the tribesmen as they showed why many consider them All-Ireland favourites. As mentioned on The Sunday Game last night the previous club disputes such as the St Thomas’s and Portumna which in the past has hindered the county’s progress this year they all seem to be singing from the same hymsheet. There work ethic was superb with everyone working for everyone. Joe Canning was superb as he usually is and while he remains a key cog for this Galway side, it can be argued that they are no longer as reliant on him for scoring as in previous season’s. It has always been a touchy subject within the Galway side about the over-reliance of Canning, we all remember the infamous answer Johnny Glynn gave when the question of Canning was presented to him. Conor Cooney, Jason Flynn and Conor Whelan were all highly impressive in the Galway forward line. The lack of Dublin intensity did help but lesser players would not have taken advantage as much as they did. They will almost certainly defeat Offaly to book a place in the Leinster final but will have to work on certain aspects of their game as at times their decision-making was poor and also will have to start better as id took them up until the halfway point of the first half before we really saw Galway get going.
GUINEY IS BACK TO HIS BEST.
Much like Galway, Wexford also had an easy 14 point victory in there Leinster QF against a disappointing Laois. Wexford in the past have struggled with the ‘favourite’ tag which was seen earlier in the year when they struggled to a four-point win over the same opposition in the league. While Laois started strongly by scoring the first three points of the game, a mistake by the Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland allowed Harry Kehoe to open Wexford’s account with a goal which laid the foundation for Wexford’s victory. The half-time introduction of Jack Guiney was a huge turning point as he caused Laois fullback line a terrible time, setting up Aidian Nolan’s goal and having a goal disallowed before finally netting himself to put the final nail in the Laois coffin. Guiney has struggled to make an impact since his return to the Wexford setup with injury hampering his pre-season. However, yesterday we seen a glimpse of what Wexford have been missing the last two seasons. With Padraig Walsh missing through injury for Kilkenny it will be interesting to see if Davy Fitzgerald will be tempted to have Guiney play from the start. It is known that Kilkenny are struggling in that part of the field and an in-form Guiney could cause the cats a lot of trouble. Laois will be bitterly disappointed with the level of performance. A lot of their ball went straight to ether Shaun Murphy or Matthew O’Hanlon in the Wexford halfback line. They will also be disappointed with their discipline also with Charles Dwyer and Willie Dunphy both receiving red cards. A question I would ask is it really that beneficial for sides who are playing in the round-robin against sides at their own level and then having to play a side who are of a much higher standard a few weeks later. The only way that these sides will improve is by playing the likes of Galway, Kilkenny and Wexford on a more regular basis which hopefully any championship restructure will involve.
DOOLEY DOES WHAT DOOLEY DOES BEST
While some may argue that the Offaly-Westmeath game was not of the highest quality it was the most exciting hurling game of the weekend. Heading into the game both sides realistically knew this may be the best chance to gain a championship victory and went out and played like it was there All-Ireland final. Shane Dooley was terrific scoring 3-08 and you have to wonder where Offaly would be without him. A fantastic free-taker, good in the air and has a nack of finding the goal, Dooley would get on any team in the country. He showed terrific leadership throughout on Saturday when Offaly needed him most. He showed great instinct in closing down Westmeath goalkeeper Paddy Maloney and flicking the ball into the Westmeath net to compete his hat-trick and put Offaly into the Leinster semi-final. Dooley as we know comes from good stock, the son of Joe and the nephew of Johnny and Billy Dooley. While his father and uncles took part, and won Leinster and All Ireland’s, it is unlikely that Shane will ever get that opportunity now at the age of 31. Which in a way he should get more credit as it is far more difficult to do all the training and the sacrifices for a struggling side than a side who has had success. It’s Galway next up for Offaly and it is unlikely we will see an Offaly victory but the win on Saturday will give the whole camp a big boost.