Former Wexford star Larry O’Gorman believes Kilkenny are capable of containing Galway for a large part of Sunday’s Leinster Senior Hurling final, but that ultimately the All-Ireland champions will extend their unbeaten record in this year’s championship.
“What I saw from Kilkenny in the second half of their last group game against Wexford, they will need to bring that for the full 70 minutes if they are to have any chance of winning,” he says. “Overall, though, I think Galway will go for the jugular with ten to 15 minutes to go and at that stage will have too much in the tank for Kilkenny.”
Galway’s comprehensive victory over Kilkenny in the round-robin series at Pearse Stadium is one of the reasons why they are favourites to retain the Bob O’Keeffe Cup, but O’Gorman says that result will serve to increase Kilkenny’s motivation.
“I can guarantee you that whatever negative things are said about Kilkenny, whether it’s on television, radio or the papers, that Brian Cody will drill it into the players – ‘don’t have them saying we’re weak, don’t have them saying we can’t score from play, that we’re relying on Walter Walsh or TJ Reid to drag us through games.”
“If you look back on that game in Salthill, Kilkenny only scored 1-2 from play, and that won’t happen on Sunday because you can be sure Brian Cody will have addressed those issues in recent weeks,” says O’Gorman.
“We saw exactly how Cody can turn things around in Nowlan Park when Wexford were after dominating the first half. He probably said in the dressing room that there’s no way they can hurl us off the field for 70 minutes in Nowlan Park. Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly didn’t perform, so Cody had no problem taking them off. They are the type of big decisions he makes. Three or four fresh players came in and things took off.”
But O’Gorman remains very impressed with the way Galway appear to have built on their Liam McCarthy Cup triumph last September.
“I saw it first hand when they came to Wexford Park. I watched them before the game, obviously during the game and even after the match against Wexford. They are just so level-headed and seem to have developed a huge bond in their camp. Maybe winning last year’s All-Ireland final has brought them even closer together.”
“I spoke to Micheal Donoghue after the match, and he mentioned to me the importance of keeping the players fresh and hungry. It looks like they are going from strength to strength. Looking back again at their victory over Kilkenny in May, when push came to shove, they piled on the pressure and drove on.”
“There’s a lot being said about Galway’s dominance under the puck-outs, and they’ve so many big players who are excellent at catching the ball, the likes of Padraig Mannion and Gearoid McInerney. Maybe Kilkenny will have to try and break the ball, flick it down and disrupt them that way. Galway also have powerful runners, and while the Kilkenny team of old would have dealt with that, I’m not sure the current team will be able to cope with that pressure for 70 minutes, so I think it’s Galway that will win another title on Sunday.”