Action from the 2023 Leinster SHC meeting of Galway and Dublin. Ben Brady/INPHO

'They've absolutely no fear of Galway' - Are Dublin a bogey team for the Tribesmen?

The sides will meet in what is essentially a straight Leinster semi-final this Sunday.

kevin-cooney-with-eoghan-odonnell Action from the 2023 Leinster SHC meeting of Galway and Dublin. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

IT’S ALL ON the line as Galway host Dublin this weekend in what is a de facto Leinster senior hurling semi-final.

The winner is guaranteed a place in the decider on 8 June regardless of who wins between Kilkenny and Wexford. The loser in Pearse Stadium will exit the championship. 

In their last five championship meetings, both sides have two wins each, along with last year’s draw in Croke Park when Galway battled back from 12 points down. Dublin famously knocked Galway out of the championship with a shock win in 2019, before clipping them again in the Leinster semi-final two years later. Home comforts seem to be a vital element of the history between these teams in the Leinster championship as Galway’s victories in 2018 and 2022 were achieved in Pearse Stadium while Dublin’s were earned in Parnell Park.

Galway have an unbeaten home record in the provincial round-robin, and will hope to lean into that as they face an opposition who have troubled them in this competition.

Dublin have already nabbed a late draw against Wexford and were on course for a famous win over Kilkenny last weekend, only for a late match-winning goal from Eoin Cody. Micheál Donoghue’s side are travelling to Galway to take down another giant of the competition, while the home side are hoping they don’t get struck down by ghosts of Dublin defeats past.

1. Struggles With Dublin Intensity

“It seems as though they have real belief that they can get stuck into Galway and they’ve absolutely no fear of Galway,” says Johnny Coen, the former Galway hurler recalling memories of playing against Dublin.

Coen was also on the panel when they shipped defeats to the Dubs in 2011 and again in 2013 in the Leinster final. The Loughrea man retired in 2022, and was a key member of the All-Ireland-winning team in 2017.

“When they see the maroon jersey coming, they seem to rise it a lot.  They are ultra aggressive and they always have one or two high quality finishers and in fairness, when they start scoring goals and going at you, they’re a force to be reckoned with.”

A superior work-rate was a hallmark of Dublin’s performances in their 2019, 2021 and 2023 encounters with Galway. In ’19, a late surge of 1-7 in the final 10 minutes steered them to victory in Parnell Park. Last year, the Dubs consumed Galway in the first half, taking control from the eighth minute with a Cian O’Sullivan shot which goalkeeper Éanna Murphy misjudged and let slip into the net. That score pushed Dublin into a three-point lead and by 25 minutes, they were seven clear.

A loose ball went up the ramp of Conor Whelan’s stick, but three Dublin players quickly converged to intercept the ball and send a quick delivery into the Dublin full-forward line. TJ Brennan attempted a pass across to Pádraic Mannion, but Danny Sutcliffe pounced to steal possession back and finish off the easy pickings from in front of the net.

danny-sutcliffe-with-johnny-coen Johnny Coen chasing down Danny Sutcliffe in 2015. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Dublin did cough up a 12-point advantage in that game, but they also contained key forwards Conor Whelan and Conor Cooney to no score, and Galway needed defender Daithí Burke to provide their only goal of the game, and the first championship goal of his career. Cooney took a penalty in the first half, but his hit was well saved by goalkeeper Seán Brennan.

The 2021 clash, which Dublin won by four points, is further evidence of Dublin’s ability to break Galway down with a stronger work ethic. With 20 minutes on the clock, Dublin were four points up when Seán Loftus got on the ball for Galway in midfield. Cian Boland lunged in to smother Loftus, forcing the ball to pop out into the path of his Dublin teammate Conor Burke to score off his left. Three minutes into the second half, Dublin scored off turnover ball again. This time it was Gearóid McInerney who was muscled off the ball by substitute Mark Schutte in Galway’s half of the pitch. He slipped the ball back to Donal Burke in space who drilled a long range shot between the posts.

2. Narrow Spread of Scorers 

Four of Galway’s six forwards got on the scoresheet in 2019. It was four again in 2023 while only three of their starting forward line scored in 2021. That’s a total of 1-38 with Evan Niland coming up as the highest scorer in all three games with his account of 0-10 in last year’s draw. By contrast, all six of Dublin’s forwards scored in both the 2019 and 2021 fixtures, while four of their first-choice attackers were on target last year. That amounts to a combined tally of 5-46 with Donal Burke topping the charts with 0-1o in the 2023 thriller.

Joe Canning lined out at midfield in 2021 and finished with six points while substitutes Evan Niland and Aidan Harte scored one point each. Conor Whelan, one of Galway’s main scoring threats, hit just 1-3 across those three games, although he was also taken off early in the first half in 2019 with a shoulder injury. Joe Canning was also just coming back from a long-term injury.

“The whole year [2019], we seemed to be be chasing and trying to get back to the level of 2017 and 2018,” says Coen. “Trying to keep personnel on the pitch was a real struggle throughout the year and we played Wexford early on in that group stage and had a draw. A week later, we played Kilkenny and put in a right good performance.

“Dublin just hit us hard and swarmed us. The Dublin crowd got behind them in Parnell Park. It was a very good game to be part of in that it was championship hurling but unfortunately, they came out on the right side of it.”

 3. Conceding Too Many Goals

Over their last five championship meetings, the goal count reads: Dublin 6, Galway 2. Even when Galway defeated Dublin in the 2018 and 2022 Leinster championship, they won on points alone. Dublin’s net never rattled.

“Their backs are always touch tight,” Coen says, “and they always put the team before themselves.

Dublin’s three-goal performance of 2019 stunned a Galway team who had contested the All-Ireland final the year before. Chris Crummey and Éamonn Dillon delivered the goals that day along with a penalty from Seán Moran.

chris-crummey-scores-a-goal Chris Crummey scoring a goal against Galway in 2021. Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO / INPHO

Crummey also struck a three-pointer in the 2021 Leinster semi-final, capitalising on a poorly arranged defensive set-up to catch a cross-field pass from Oisín O’Rorke and slip the ball past goalkeeper Éanna Murphy. Dublin were leading by two points when that goal arrived in the 51st minute, ultimately pushing them on to a four-point victory.

The two Dublin goals in last year’s clash were the product of defensive blunders on Galway’s part. Goalkeeper Murphy will be disappointed with how he allowed Cian O’Sullivan’s shot sneak past him for the first goal. And Danny Sutcliffe was the wrong man to trust with a wayward pass for the second.

Coen often marked Sutcliffe during his time with the maroon and white. He can attest to the kind of challenges the St Judes forward poses. “In times of trouble, they look to him to win a puckout and they look to him to get a score. He’s a real driving force and a real leader on that team.”

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