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All-Ireland hurling semi-final preview: Tipperary v Galway

GAABy Sean McGoldrick
Cathal Mannion and James Woodlock from the 2104 Qualifier clash between the sides, a high-scoring affair won by Tipp
Cathal Mannion and James Woodlock from the 2104 Qualifier clash between the sides, a high-scoring affair won by Tipp

Will it be the Tribe or the Premier that take on Kilkenny next month?

After Kilkenny eased their way past Waterford last weekend, we already have half the line-up for next month's decider.

This Sunday we will find out the team faced with the task of stopping the Cats bid for a second title on the bounce.

Tipperary have form, famously stopping Kilkenny's quest for five-in-a-row in 2010 while Galway ended Brian Cody's side's run of consecutive Leinster titles at seven back in 2012.

Which one will have the task of facing down the black and amber next month? Sean McGoldrick delivers his verdict.

All-Ireland SHC semi-final: Galway v Tipperary, Croke Park, Live on RTE 2 and Sky Sport 3
 
Even though they have only beaten Kilkenny once in championship hurling since Brian Cody took over, Tipperary would consider themselves as the Cats' natural heir apparent.
 
Notwithstanding the fact that Galway, Dublin and Cork all beat the Cats in championship hurling in the last five years Tipperary has been their most consistent and formidable rival during that period. And, of course, the Premier County will never allow Kilkenny forget that they halted their drive for five in 2010.
 
But it could have been Galway rather than Tipperary who filled the role of heir apparent since the turn of the century.
 
In the 2010 All-Ireland quarter-final Tipp beat Galway by a single point (3-17;3-16) after an absorbing contest - arguably the key moment was the forced retirement through injury of Ollie Canning near the end.
 
That victory proved the launching pad for a sustained run of high achievement by Tipperary who has since contested three All-Ireland finals. After that 2010 loss Galway went into one of their customary tail spins which lasted until 2012 when they made All-Ireland final for the first time since 2005.
 
They lost to Kilkenny in a replay and today is the first time they have hurled in August since – self-evidently consistency is not one of their better traits.
 
Anthony Cunningham has effectively rebuilt his side as evident by the fact that nine of the team which featured in the 2012 All-Ireland replay won't start today. The majority of the changes are in defence where the only survivor starting from 2012 is Johnny Coen.
 
Among the newcomers are the Mannion brothers, Padraig and Cathal – who line out at corner back and corner forward respectively - as well as full back John Hanbury and teenager Conor Whelan who made a sensational debut in the All-Ireland quarter final win over Cork.
 
Tipperary, in contrast, is in a different place in their development. With speculation that Noel McGrath - who has recovered after treatment for testicular cancer - could play some role in the contest Eamon O'Shea's squad is not short on big match experience.
 
All season Tipperary has been on a mission to avenge the defeat they endured against Kilkenny in last year's All-Ireland final replay. One of the unseen dangers is that subconsciously at least they could already be looking forward to their clash in the final against the Cats.
 
Galway is quite capable of staging a spectacular ambush. They too have realistic ambitions of halting Kilkenny in the September showdown.
 
In their make-up Galway are similar to Kilkenny in terms of the type of players that Cunningham was recruited. He's opted for tall players who are capable of winning their own ball and dominating the aerial duals. In contrast Tipperary relies on their superior first touch and slick stick work to open up opposing defence.
 
Galway will endeavour to turn the contest into trench warfare in the middle third of the field with lots of hurling's rucks designed to frustrate the Munster side. Their strategy is based on the premise that the Tipperary forwards remained loath to fight for their own ball.
 
The big bonus for Galway this season is that they are no longer reliant on Joe Canning to shoot the lights in order to have a chance of winning.  Canning hit eight wides against Cork in the quarter final but it didn't make the slightest difference to the outcome.
 
Galway’s finishing will have to be more economical but Cathal Mannion, Jason Flynn and the marauding Jonathan Glynn are all now potential match winners. Cyril Donnellan's return to full fitness and form has also been a key factor in Galway's revival in 2015
 
This summer Tipperary has used team captain Brendan Maher in a sweeping role which had added advantage of giving their key forwards such as Seamus Callinan, John O'Dwyer and Bonnar Maher more room.
 
Despite the presence of experienced players like Johnny Coen and Iarla Tannian – who was at midfield in 2012 - there remains a feeling that the Galway defence is still a work in progress.
 
Tipperary won the Munster title playing within themselves. One suspects they have more left in the tank and provide they find that extra gear their forward fire power will prove too much for the Galway defence.
 
And one never knows: we might finally see a great game in the 2015 championships.
 
Verdict: Tipperary.