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Dublin: 16 °C Friday 19 April, 2019

'There's a meanness and toughness to Galway': Tyrrell on comparisons with great Kilkenny team

Cats legend Jackie Tyrrell believes Galway and Limerick will meet in the All-Ireland final.

AS THE ALL-Ireland hurling semi-finals loom this weekend, former Kilkenny defender Jackie Tyrrell doesn’t have to think long and hard about the most memorable last four clash he was involved in.

Jackie Tyrrell Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“There’s one in particular, 2014 against Limerick in the rain at Croke Park,” he says.

“It was unbelievable, warrior-like almost. Limerick had us to the pin of our collar. I remember in the second half I was marking Grham Mulcahy, and I couldn’t see 20 yards in front of me because of the rain.

“I was only shadowing Mulcahy and I didn’t know whether the ball was coming or not, I don’t think he did either, he was just making runs for the sake of it, it was raining that hard.”

Kilkenny needed to summon every bit of their greatness to see off Limerick that day as the rain cascaded down in biblical proportions at headquarters.

“It was just colossal, an epic game,” Tyrrell continues. “We somehow scraped through. I never kind of celebrated an All-Ireland, like jumping up and down, but I ran to Brian Cody that day, I’d never done that before after some All-Irelands.

“That day felt so special, they turned on the lights and it just had that cauldron feel to it.”

Source: RTÉ Sport/YouTube

Tyrrell isn’t surprised to hear comparisons between the current Galway side and the great Kilkenny team he played on.

The Tribesmen, who needed a replay to overcome the Cats and retain the Leinster crown, are favourites to achieve back-to-back All-Irelands this year. Tyrrell can sense a familiar ruthlessness to Micheal Donoghue’s group.

“There is a lot of comparisons because they tick all the boxes,” explains the nine-time All-Ireland winner. “That physicality – if you go toe-to-toe with Galway they’re going to beat you. If you play a sweeper, they’ll play around it.

“If you want to play a running game, they’re able to do that. If you want to pack the middle third and make it a war of attrition, they can do that. They have such a variety of scorers. You see the spread of scorers they got against Kilkenny.

Jonathan Glynn and David Burke Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We had games where we didn’t perform and got draw out of them. The thing is to react and they did that the last day against Kilkenny. They’re developing a really ruthless mentality within that group and I really like the age of them now.

“I think that’s a player-led group,” he continues. “The likes of Daithi Burke, Joe Canning, the lads in their mid to late 20s. I always found with Kilkenny, at the end of the day Brian was brilliant and all, but it was player-led. Lads held each other accountable and there’s a meanness and toughness to this Galway team.

“That Galway team are animals at the minute. They have to realise too that to have a team like that that ticks all the boxes, that doesn’t come (easily). They have to be ambitious, hungry and squeeze everything they can out of it. You look at the success they’ve had already since last year, they’re going in the right direction.

Conor Cooney and Jason Flynn at the final whistle Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“They’ve a lot of good guys that are flexible playing an awful lot of different positions. Their forward line is super. To think that Conor Cooney mightn’t be playing at the weekend it just shows exactly where they’re at.”

Galway face a resurgent Clare outfit on Saturday evening and the Cats legend feels the underdogs must play the short game if they’re to cause an upset.

“If there’s a situation where they’re clearing ball off the back foot down on top of Gearoid McInerney and Daithi Burke, they may as well go home and head down the road. They need to stretch it and keep width in their attack and they need to play it through the lines.

“They need the 20 or 30 yard pop passes because they haven’t got the ball winners to hit long high ball down. Peter Duggan is decent in the air but he’s not an outlet that’s going to trouble Galway.

Littlewoods Ireland's Ultimate Croke Park Sleepover Launch Style ambassador Jackie Tyrrell launches Littlewoods Ireland’s Ultimate Croke Park Sleepover. Littlewoods Ireland will give one lucky family the experience of a lifetime; to wake up in Croke Park on the morning of the All-Ireland Hurling Final in a luxury suite decorated with Littlewoods Ireland homeware, electrical and fashion products worth €15,000 - theirs to take home – plus VIP tickets to the most anticipated game of the season. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

“John Conlon, you can’t really afford to bring him out of full-forward because he’s the focal point of their attack. If I was Clare that’s what I’d be saying – keep the width and keep the space that you’re able to hit that ball into the full-forward line and play it through the lines.

“They might cough up possessions and scores but stay with it. I would also flirt with the idea of brining David McInerney to six. I think Clare should bring Conor Cleary back on Jonathan Glynn and make it a wrestling match because that’s what it’s going to be. I think Clare need McInerney doing an awful lot more than just sitting there and going toe-to-toe with Johnny Glynn.

“Maybe bring him to six so he can influence and drive out with ball. He may be more suited to mark Joe Canning than Cleary. I don’t know if I’d start with it in a big occasion like that, but if things aren’t going well and they need to do something that would definitely be one of the things I’d be looking at doing pretty quickly.”

There’s one match-up in particular he’s looking forward to on Saturday.

“I think John Conlan on Daithi Burke at the weekend, I’d walk on glass to come up here and watch that duel. I’d probably watch that more than the action at the other end, that alone is brilliant.

John Conlon with Liam Ryan Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Gearoid McInerney versus Tony Kelly, an absolute giant versus a fleet-footed little whippersnapper, how is that going to go? That’s just two duels in one game this weekend, and I just think we’re very lucky to be alive and experiencing all this.

“The round-robin feels like ages ago, there’s been so much hurling. It’s been brilliant but it’s just a pity there’s only three games left.

“I think we’re looking at a Limerick-Galway All-Ireland final.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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