Galway and Dublin will meet a Leinster SHC match at O’Connor Park for the first time since their quarter-final replay two years ago.
The Westerners struck five goals that day on their way to a 13 point victory and enter Sunday’s game as favourites on the back of a sensational Allianz League final defeat of Tipperary.
The recent league season was far less satisfactory for Dublin, who suffered relegation from the top flight. But hurling in the capital has been boosted by Cuala’s triumph in the All-Ireland Club final and they have blooded some young players this season.
Dublin’s first task is to counteract the scoring power which left Tipperary reeling last month – Joe Canning, Conor Whelan, Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn are all enjoying a rich vein of form. Daithi Burke and Aidan Harte were faultless at the back in that league final also, and obviously their ambition is to put all the near misses in the past and capture the Liam MacCarthy Cup in September.
Dublin enjoyed a big win over Wexford at this stage in 2016, but fell away badly against Kilkenny in the semi-final, and will look for leadership from the likes of Liam Rushe and David Treacy if they are to halt Galway’s momentum.
The results of previous Dublin-Galway clashes are –
2015: Galway 5-19 Dublin 1-18 (Leinster quarter-final) Replay
2015: Dublin 0-20 Galway 1-17 (Leinster quarter-final)
2013: Dublin 2-25 Galway 2-13 (Leinster final)
2011: Dublin 0-19 Galway 2-7 (Leinster semi-final)
1941: Dublin 2-4 Galway 2-2 (All-Ireland semi-final)
1924: Dublin 5-3 Galway 2-6 (All-Ireland final)
1920: Dublin 6-3 Galway 1-4 (All-Ireland semi-final)
Consistency The Key For Padraic Mannion
When Galway blew Tipperary away at the Gaelic Grounds in the National League final, many observers jumped to the conclusion that the All Ireland champions had just experienced an off day. Four weeks later, Cork repeated the trick in the Munster championship and suddenly the perception is completely different – the championship season is thrown wide open.
Yet for all the exuberance shown by Kieran Kingston’s young Cork side at Semple Stadium, they prevailed by just four points. Galway beat the Premier men by 16 – exactly the type of occasional brilliance that we’ve come to expect from the Tribesmen down the years.
“One of the main aims we had from the league was to put a number of consistent performances together; consistency hasn’t been a strength of ours over the past few years,” says Padraic Mannion. “But, towards the end of the league, we started to see that in our displays, and it’s something we definitely want to carry into the championship.”
It was a first league medal for Mannion, who made his Leinster SHC debut versus Dublin in 2015 and has been an ever-present in defence for each of their 12 championship matches over the past couple of years.
A member of the Galway Minor team which beat Dublin in the All-Ireland final in 2011, he found himself back at Croke Park in February with his club Ahascragh-Fohenagh. Although Carrickshock proved too strong in the All-Ireland Intermediate Club final, county and provincial club titles ensured it was a memorable year for the club.
Now back focussed on inter-county duty, he is adamant that Galway’s burning desire to reach another All-Ireland final won’t affect their focus for this quarter-final fixture.
“We’re long enough around to know that if you starting looking ahead to finals you will be beaten. You can’t take your eye off the ball in any match and our first goal is to try and get over Dublin. They will be a massive challenge,” he says.
Niall McMorrow Says Dublin Focussed On Their Own Performance
Can Dublin tap into the enthusiasm generated by Cuala’s historic march to All-Ireland Club glory and remain among the front-runners in a competitive provincial championship?
That’s the challenge facing Ger Cunningham’s side as they bid to return to the heights scaled in the first half of the decade, when three Leinster final appearances and a first provincial title in 42 years in 2013 put hurling in the capital back on the map.
Already this year, they’ve been forced to move on from a frustrating league season, propping up Division 1 with only one victory from five outings (away to Cork) and subsequently losing the relegation play-off to Clare.
Cuala, meanwhile, were making waves on the club scene and ultimately captured the All-Ireland title on St Patrick’s Day. This left the county team understrength for most of their competitive outings earlier this year, but Niall McMorrow isn’t making any excuses.
“It wasn’t ideal to be without the Cuala players, but from their perspective they went on to win an All-Ireland and for Dublin hurling that’s very beneficial,” he says. “At the same time, we blooded some new lads and they stepped up and played well. So I wouldn’t blame our performances on the loss of the Cuala lads, but at the same time we were looking forward to having them back.”
McMorrow himself is no stranger to club success, as a member of five of the six Ballyboden St Enda’s title-winning sides in Dublin since 2007 – though provincial silverware eluded them.
Nevertheless, his achievements also include Leinster Minor, U-21 (2), Senior and Allianz League titles with the Dubs, so it’s not been a bad innings so far.
The 27 year old realises that their opponents today are one of the form teams in the country at present. “Obviously, winning the league is a massive achievement for Galway, but we’re concentrating on ourselves rather than them,” he says.