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Dublin: 2 °C Saturday 23 February, 2019

6 talking points ahead of Galway and Tipperary's All-Ireland hurling semi-final

The counties meet at Croke Park on Sunday for the right to play Kilkenny on 6 September.

1. To sweep or not to sweep?

It’s the question we asked of Waterford last week and it applies here again ahead of Sunday’s game.

Looking at the two teams, it does appear that we’re in for more conventional 15 on 15 showdown but the respective managers Eamon O’Shea and Anthony Cunningham will still place a heavy emphasis on defence.

Patrick Maher with Jamie Barron Patrick 'Bonner' Maher in full flight against Waterford. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Galway will have to look at the threats of Seamus Callanan and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, while also blocking off the running power of Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher from the half-forward line.

Tadhg de Búrca’s sweeper role for Waterford limited Tipperary’s goal threat and Galway will hope that Iarla Tannian can cover enough ground at centre back, perhaps dropping five or ten yards deeper than normal, to cut off the space.

Galway must stem the supply of ball to O’Dwyer and Callanan at source, and avoid a situation where their defenders are isolated one-on-one with the lethal forwards.

2. Galway’s man-mountain Johnny Glynn

And that leads us nicely on to how Tipp will deal with the Galway attack.

Johnny Glynn is the obvious target for Colm Callanan’s puckouts and Galway will look to move ball quickly through their half-forward division into livewire inside men Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn.

There is some talk that Galway may deploy Joe Canning further out the field for spells and put him in direct opposition with Kieran Bergin.

Jonathan Glynn Galway may place Jonathan Glynn on Tipp's Ronan Maher. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The rumoured match-up is Glynn against Tipp’s Ronan Maher, which would leave Pádraic Maher facing up to a rejuvenated Cyril Donnellan.

That trio in the half-forward division would present Tipp with plenty of problems, with Conor Whelan perhaps given the licence to roam.

3. The five-week gap

When the ball is thrown in on Sunday, it will have been five weeks since Tipp last struck a ball in anger but club games in between and competitive fare in training will have kept the Premier County’s players ticking over.

In 2008, the gap between Munster final and All-Ireland semi-final was a factor as Tipp fell to Waterford.

But a year later they learned those lessons and returned to Croke Park with a blistering performance against Limerick, a display that was one of the most complete during the Liam Sheedy era.

Source: premierview/YouTube

Tipp have reverted to type in their build-up to the game, spending last weekend in Carton House to fine-tune preparations.

And manager O’Shea and his backroom team will feel confident that they have timed their run to perfection.

4. Noel McGrath

It’s brilliant news for all hurling fans that Noel McGrath is fit and available for selection for Tipperary.

The Loughmore-Castleiney man underwent surgery on testicular cancer in April but has made a good recovery since and returned to club action recently.

O’Shea indicated that McGrath is ‘in the mix’ for a role against Galway on Sunday and his presence in the 26-man panel strengthens Tipp’s hand.

Source: HurlingGoals/YouTube

If the game is in the melting pot, McGrath’s arrival from the bench would provide Tipp and their supporters with a massive fillip down the home straight.

And against tiring legs, McGrath’s freshness and vision could be the keys to unlocking Galway’s defence.

5. The weight of history

Here Galway are again, with the scent of potential All-Ireland glory in their nostrils.

Galway boss Anthony Cunningham told Brian Cody after the Leinster final that he’d see him again in September and those could be prophetic words.

But Galway will have to overcome Tipp in championship hurling for the first time since 2005 to get over the line.

Source: hockeyhurlingshinty2/YouTube

Historically, the Tribesmen have provided stiff opposition to Tipp and in the last two meetings between the counties, the games could have gone either way.

Tipp needed three late points to scrape over the line in the 2010 quarter-final and they came from six points down in the final 20 minutes to win by nine in last year’s qualifier.

6. There’s no show like a Joe show

Joe Canning carries the hopes of a county on his shoulders once more in Sunday’s clash.

The Portumna star was brilliant until the All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork, when he shot a number of uncharacteristic wides against the Rebels.

But if Canning’s radar is in on Sunday, that could spell big trouble for Tipperary.

Source: hockeyhurlingshinty5/YouTube

And for the first time in years, Canning has forwards around him also capable of making a big impact.

The emergence of Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion as attackers of real substance has lessened the burden of scoring responsibility on Canning.

And young Conor Whelan scored 1-2 on his championship debut against Cork to provide Galway with another exciting option up front.

8 classic memories from Galway and Tipperary’s senior hurling championship rivalry

‘You have to be on your game more than ever’ – The job of an inter-county sweeper

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