THE MIDFIELD SHOWDOWN in Croke Park today will be fundamentally different to that which took place between Galway and Kilkenny in July’s Leinster final.
That’s all down to the return of Michael Fennelly to the action. One of the powerhouses of the Kilkenny team, his return is a massive boost to Brian Cody’s side. The absence of the 2011 Hurler of the Year was keenly felt in that provincial decider. It’s a major challenge now for Galway to halt his impact and it’s going to be very interesting to see how they react to facing him.
Galway’s midfield pairing have impressed me greatly this year. Iarla Tannian has blossomed in a role that we were not used to seeing him operate in. He has lost weight, has become extremely fit and that is reflected in the quality of his performances. He plays simple hurling, collecting the ball and moving it quickly up the pitch. I am glad to see Galway picking a player like him and they have benefitted accordingly. Alongside him Galway have Andy Smith, who is a really quick and intelligent player.
Kilkenny do have Michael Fennelly back in their ranks but Michael Rice is a major loss after being injured in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary. I would have thought that Cillian Buckley would be his replacement but Brian Cody has gone for Richie Hogan. It’s an interesting call yet regardless Galway must use midfield to gain a foothold in the game. It’s going to be a crucial duel and whoever comes out on top will have a major influence on the outcome.
Daithi Regan: “This game is not a question of Galway’s ability as hurlers, it is their ability to face up to a juggernaut.”