Search icon


02nd Jul 2014

Burning Issue: Who has more to lose from Saturday’s crunch qualifier, Tipperary or Galway?

Tipperary and Galway face the prospect of their seasons coming to a premature end on Saturday evening, but who has more to lose? Two JOEs argue the toss.

Conor Heneghan

Tipperary and Galway face the prospect of their seasons coming to a premature end on Saturday evening, but who has more to lose? Two JOEs argue the toss.

Conor Heneghan says… Such is the beauty of the hurling qualifiers that, just like last year when Tipperary were drawn to play Kilkenny in Nowlan Park, a mouth-watering winner-takes-all clash has been thrown up when the Championship is still only coming to the boil.

The meeting of Tipp and Galway at Semple Stadium this weekend is a little different from that game last year, however. Kilkenny playing Tipp was a chance for everyone both inside and outside of the respective counties to re-live an admittedly watered-down version of the most thrilling rivalry of the modern age; this time, thanks to the unrivalled tendency of the competing counties to flatter to deceive, it feels like both of their reputations are at stake.

That said, there is no doubt in my mind that Tipperary have far more to lose. Sure, Galway are more hit and miss than Fernando Torres on a bad day and have been for years, but at least the memory of their battling comeback against Kilkenny the first day is still fresh. They weren’t that bad in the replay either and after being hardened by two weekends of high-octane championship action on the trot, it’s a bit of a surprise to seem them quoted as 15/8 underdogs, especially considering the vulnerability of the opposition.

On the other hand, it’s been over a month since Tipp were overhauled by Limerick in the dying stages in Semple Stadium and while you’d think that those wounds have healed by now, they can only fully get rid of them with a redeeming performance on the pitch.

The problem for Tipperary is that they’re a bit short on reference points to remind them that they have what it takes to compete with the best; Tipp fans won’t need to be reminded that it’s been nearly two years since they won a game in the Championship.

Tipperary’s current malaise would be easier to take if there wasn’t so much obvious potential in their squad at the moment. Constant comparisons with the 2010 side are probably growing tiresome in the Premier County at this stage, but they’re still backboned by a large group of players from that side who looked destined to dominate the small ball game for years.

You’d have to wonder what effect another year of disappointment would have on the likes on the Mahers Padraic, Brendan and Bonner, on Michael Cahill, Noel McGrath, Seamus Callanan and the rest.

Tipperary hurling folk are a fanatical bunch at the best of times and should they taste defeat again on Saturday, the inquest would be long and potentially grim. Would they be able to bounce back from what would be their third defeat in a big game on home turf in the space of two months? If their wills aren’t strong enough, the psychological ramifications of another major loss could be huge, both on an individual and a collective basis.

Despite all the reservations listed above, I think they’ll come through on Saturday evening; I think they have to and that defeat is a prospect Eamon O’Shea’s men simply can’t countenance.

As a man from the west who roots for Connacht counties as long as they’re not in direct competition with Mayo I’ll be supporting Galway, but I think Tipp will do it and who knows, maybe it will be the start of something big.

Alan Loughnane says… As a long suffering Galway supporter, you learn to come to terms with disappointment. A hurling team that has promised us so much, yet given us so little to celebrate. It is always hard to be optimistic about Galway even after they produce their typical once-a-year whirlwind performance.

There are still questions hanging over this Galway team; can they get the best from Joe Canning? Do they have the stomach to grind out the results in tight games like the Kilkenny hurlers or Tyrone footballers do?

Anthony Cunningham is in the last year of his original three-year contract with the Tribesmen, but Galway have not experienced the progress he promised when he took the reins.

Despite reaching the All-Ireland Final and winning a Leinster Final in 2012, Galway’s season last year ended prematurely with heavy losses to both Dublin and Clare. A blip on the radar? Or a backwards step? A loss on Saturday would surely seal Cunningham’s fate. It would mean that Galway have only defeated Laois and Westmeath in the Championship over the last two years. That’s not good enough for a team with as many talented hurlers as Galway.

Their performance in the opening game against the Cats this year was promising but it has to be taken into account that Galway were nine points down before their freak comeback in the final minutes. Dead and on the way to the morgue if not for Joe Canning’s heroics.

Canning is arguably the most talented hurler in the country and during that game he grabbed the Galway team by the scruff of the neck and pulled them along with him for the draw. He is the subject of much criticism both inside and outside the county and he needs a big performance on Saturday after being largely anonymous in the replay. It seems unfair to heap so much pressure on one man when there are 14 others supposed to be helping him, but this is what he is to Galway hurling. When Canning performs, Galway perform.

Against my better judgement I will add that there is a reason for optimism *cringes at the word* for myself and the rest of the Galway hurling faithful. The hurlers showed a willingness to battle in the drawn game against Kilkenny, a fight they haven’t shown in recent years. It could be a sign that the much lauded mental fragility problem of the Tribesmen has been fixed.

Andy Smith is one of the players Galway fans love and the opposition loves to hate but his importance to the Tribesmen cannot be overstated. He is the Galway ball winner in midfield, he does the unglamorous hard work that Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher does so effectively for Tipperary. If Smith and his midfield partner (hopefully the talented Padraig Brehony), can gain dominance or even parity in that area, Galway have a real chance to get one over on the Premier County.

Tipperary are favourites for the game on Saturday, despite not having won a Championship game since defeating Waterford in the 2012 Munster Final. Galway have traditionally never feared facing Tipperary over the years and will relish the prospect of taking on the Premier County on their home patch.

It seems likely that neither of these two teams will be challenging for honours come September but it is still an enthralling match-up with both sides desperately needing a win. Galway have had two tough games in as many weeks and will be ready to set a high tempo in the game; Tipp are coming in colder but fresher.

It should be a cracker, but I’m going head over heart on this one and letting my optimism get the better of me. Galway to sneak it by two points and Joe Canning to produce a man of the match performance.