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all-ireland semi Galway have the power and precision, but I'm not sure they will last the pace with Limerick

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Cathal Mannion of Galway in action against Pádraic Maher of Tipperary

Cathal Mannion of Galway in action against Pádraic Maher of Tipperary

Cathal Mannion of Galway in action against Pádraic Maher of Tipperary

Galway v Limerick, Croke Park, 4.0

I’m undecided what impact last weekend’s quarter-final game against Tipperary will have on Galway when they face Limerick this afternoon.

There are two schools of thought on the issue. On the one hand the extra match could benefit Shane O’Neill’s side.

It got the Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny out of their system, they got an extra-competitive game and the outcome will have boosted their confidence.

The other side of the argument is that the eight-day turnaround won’t have been sufficient to enable them to recover physically from their exertions at the Gaelic Grounds. As a result they could run out of steam in the latter stages of today’s encounter.

This is a massive challenge for both teams after a sprint-like competition. Even though it is championship hurling it is not ‘championship-like’ conditions and this has had an impact on how games have panned out.

The ground conditions in Limerick for the Galway v Tipperary match were very difficult. This won’t be a factor today on the Croke Park surface, which should help Galway in terms how they control the ball.

But I still have doubts about whether they can last the pace. In tight games everything can be decided in injury time.

It was particularly noticeable that in the last quarter of the Leinster final against Kilkenny, Galway’s play became very ragged and mistake-ridden.

Even when they had the extra man after the red card for Cathal Barrett against Tipperary, they still looked vulnerable and had difficulty finding a way to win the game which went right down to the wire.

At this time of the year games are more punishing on the body.

Furthermore, there are the shorter breaks between big games. And as we have seen in football, results don’t always go the expected way.

Limerick were well below their best against Waterford in the Munster final. To me they seem like a team that has difficulty carrying the favourites tag.

They have developed a habit of playing their best hurling in the championship against Tipperary.

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Declan Hannon and his team will need to repeat that ‘Tipp’ form if they are to reach a second All-Ireland final in three years.

Great teams finish off opponents early in matches with a goal-scoring spree. But Limerick have not yet got that weapon in their armoury.

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Limerick stars Aaron Gillane, David Reidy and Darragh ODonovan celebrate

Limerick stars Aaron Gillane, David Reidy and Darragh ODonovan celebrate

Limerick stars Aaron Gillane, David Reidy and Darragh ODonovan celebrate

What they have, though, is an ability to suffocate opponents by constantly putting them under pressure and denying them space.

They keep the scoreboard ticking over by shooting points and then they introduce fresh legs in the final quarter

Seamus Flanagan and David Dempsey made big impacts when they came on after the final water-break in the Munster final and Darragh O’Donovan and Adrian Breen were also introduced late on. O’Donovan and Flanagan are due to start today.

At the other end of the field they protect their full-back line and deny the opposition the space to get goals.

In the early stages of the quarter-final against Tipperary, Galway put the ball into the corners. But you will not beat Limerick unless you direct the ball, early and often, into the area in front of their goal.

Galway have real physical strength throughout the field but especially in defence where full-back Daithí Burke is a key figure. They have to use it to their advantage and stop Limerick playing the game on their terms.

On various occasions against Tipperary the Galway defenders looked really vulnerable when facing their own goal and this is an area where Limerick can exert some pressure

Galway have the power and precision to win this game and reach their third final in four years.

But for Joe Canning and his colleagues to achieve their target it is imperative that they perform from the first to the last whistle.

On the basis of what I’ve witnessed so far this season there has to be doubts about their capacity to do this – particularly against a side which boasts such a formidable bench.

This is not an issue for Limerick because they are not so reliant on their starting 15.

Limerick have waited longer than expected to get back to Croke Park and win a championship. I expect they will achieve that part of their mission today.

VERDICT: Limerick


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