Alan Kerins knows what it's like to beat Kilkenny. Andrew Paton/INPHO
winning easy

'When you're winning easy, you don't know where you're weak'

Alan Kerins hopes Galway’s big wins has tested them enough.

WINNING CAN BE a double-edged sword.

When Galway spurned goal chances and needed to dig out a replay during an uninspiring draw with Dublin at the end of May, September seemed a long way away.

By the end of June they’d beaten the Dubs inside 20 minutes of their replay in Tullamore, and given Laois a hammering en route to the final.

They didn’t get a test though. They didn’t learn anything. September still seemed far away.

On the plus side, it’s debatable what their opponents Kilkenny discovered about themselves in their 24 point blitz of Wexford in Nowlan Park two weeks ago.

Were Kilkenny and Galway that good? Were Wexford, Dublin and Laois that bad?

As a former dual player with Galway for over a decade, Alan Kerins knows what those questions are like. While it’s important to know your strengths, it’s vital to know your weaknesses. The heavy wins didn’t test them enough at the back, and even the drawn game against Dublin lacked an edge. At times it felt more league than championship.

“There’s nothing better than coming through a hard game, and then you learn so much from that.

“Because when you’re winning and winning easy, you don’t know where you’re weak, because it’s a very false predictor of where you’re going.

Alan Kerins Kerins in action for Galway during the 2011 Leinster Championship. James Crombie James Crombie

“Tight games are always better for you. They prepare you better for the next game, you’re sharper, you learn from mistakes you’ve made. Your weaknesses or things you can work on aren’t highlighted in an easy game, and Galway have had two very easy games in the (Dublin) replay and against Laois,” Kerins says.

Obviously though, whether it’s by two points or 22, winning is better than losing. While they haven’t had to dig deep to make it past Dublin or Laois, they never gave sides a chance to make it close.

There has been a freedom and expression to the attacking, and a flow to their possession. They showed in the Dublin replay that they won’t shirk a fight, as the niggle crept in during the second half.

“On the flip side, their confidence is building now, they’re getting belief in themselves, momentum is building, so hopefully they’ll carry that belief and that freedom they’re playing with from those two games, to express how good they are.

“Hopefully they’ll carry that belief and that freedom to just go out and play, rather than fear Kilkenny”

9-64 in three championship games can’t be sniffed at. While the top half of the pitch has often been the Joe show down the years, it was Cathal Mannion who devoured the Dublin defence in Tullamore, Cyril Donnellan causing havoc the week before.

Cathal Mannion celebrates scoring his side's second goal Cathal Mannion has been in blistering form in font of goal. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

With more forwards standing up, the attention of defenders had to be rationed out across the pitch. Against Laois, the extra attention paid to the likes of Donnellan and Mannion meant that a fully-fit Joe Canning had more space to flourish, and he was man of the match, with 1-4 of a 1-15 total coming from play.

“Galway have a phenomenal forward line, if they can click. They have six guys all over 6ft 1 or 2. They can all hurl, they can all move, and they’ve all got great ball winning ability, which is unusual for Galway, we’ve always had small teams.

“You have Cathal Mannion, Joe Canning, Jason Flynn, Johnny Glynn, Cyril Donnellan and David Burke. David is the smallest, and he’s 6ft something. Most big men can’t move and can’t hurl. They can all move, all hurl, and have hurling brains. If they click at all, they should destroy backs.

“Cathal Mannion scored three goals against Dublin, so he’ll take some watching. Johnny Glynn will catch every ball if you don’t watch him. They’ve great options now and they can play with a variety rather than through one man. They have the ability, they just need the belief,” he added.

Momentum is the key in the quest for Liam. With so many counties operating at a similar level, maintaining a winning run is now more important than ever.

An emotionally taxing defeat in a provincial final will now leave you landed in a quarter-final clash against a side who’ve put their poor championship start behind them. They’re back on form, while you’ve just lost yours.

Fergal Moore lifts the Bob O'Keefe Cup Ê Fergal Moore lifts the Bob O'Keefe Cup after Galway beat Kilkenny in the Leinster final in 2012. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

On the other side of the coin, you’re dealing with a long lay-off and trying to avoid rust if you’re straight into the last four. It’s a chance you’re happy to take take though, Kerins says.

“It’ll keep that momentum going, and that belief and that freedom if they get a win. If they get beaten, it would do a bit of damage to them in terms of confidence, and then they’re going meeting a team who is on the back of a couple of wins in the qualifiers.

“It’s like Clare in 2013, whoever gets momentum now. Anyone could win the All-Ireland still even the teams who’ve been beaten heavily. You make a couple of changes, learn from the mistakes, learn from the losses, and then go on a run in the qualifiers. Whoever gets momentum and belief has a huge chance this year.

“Sometimes then it’s a disadvantage to win the provincials, because you’re waiting five weeks. But for Galway I think it would be great if they won just to keep that snowball gathering.”

Current Irish Rugby Stars, Ian Madigan and Nora Stapleton joined Alan Kerins(Alan Kerins Projects), Denis Hickie (patron to Gorta-Self Help Africa), Tony Ward and Ollie Campbell (former Irish rugby players) in St. Stephen’s Green on Friday to launch the Caps to the Summit event. A two day event  that will see 32 former Irish rugby heroes hike to the summit of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntuohil in September to raise money for the Alan Kerins Projects and Gorta-Self Help Africa. Further information available

Originally published Friday at 19.00

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