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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019

'This is our opportunity to win an All-Ireland, to end the famine that we've had in both counties for so long'

Former Galway hurler Ollie Canning shares his thoughts ahead of the All-Ireland senior hurling final.

Jamie Barron and Cathal Mannion Waterford's Jamie Barron and Galway's Cathal Mannion. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

FORMER GALWAY HURLER Ollie Canning says that both his native county and Waterford will feel that they can do the business in the All-Ireland senior hurling final on Sunday.

It’s the first time the two sides will meet in the decider, with both looking to end major droughts. The Tribesmen were last crowned champions in 1988, while Waterford haven’t been kingpins since 1959.

In the last six years, Galway have been beaten finalists on three occasions, but favourites this year, Canning agrees that they’re going to Croke Park on much different terms.

“It’s slightly different this year,” he says. “I think there’s been a different feel to the championship this year. Even if you go back two or three months ago.

“I think the championship was very, very open this year. Even from when Galway beat Tipperary in the league final, it’s been wide open since early days.

“There has been a lot of optimism in Galway and in other counties, as we see with Waterford coming through. I think people in Galway have probably felt that there was a chance there this year. It’s a novel pairing and I think everybody’s really looking forward to it.

“If you look at Galway, they’re well placed, if you look at Waterford, they’re well placed. I think Galway will look at this as a great opportunity, I think Waterford will look at this as a great opportunity to win the All-Ireland too.

“Who knows? All you can do is play the game in front of you. You can’t think about next year or who’s going to be going well next year, because really you’ve no idea.

“This year, it’s Galway — Waterford and I think both teams will say to themselves ‘Look guys, this is our opportunity to win an All-Ireland, to end the famine that we’ve had in both counties for so long’.”

There has been a huge amount of debate surrounding the sweeper system this year, with eyes mainly on Waterford. But Canning feels that it shouldn’t cause problems for Galway this weekend.

“One advantage Galway have is they’ve come up against the sweeper system so far this year. I think Galway handled it pretty well in the Leinster championship.

Launch of SKY Sports 2017 GAA Championship coverage Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

“Bear in mind, this Waterford team are better than the teams they faced in that Leinster championship so it’s going to be a completely different game.

“If you’ve got players on a team that can shoot from distance and are pretty accurate at doing that, it gives you an advantage over the sweeper system. You won’t need to work the ball in in front of the goals to get scores.

“But in regards of facing the technicalities of facing a team playing the sweeper system, I feel that Galway should be able to handle that and adapt to it.”

He feels that the battle around midfield will have a huge say in the game, and both sides ultimately to play with sweepers, if that’s how the Déise shape up.

“I think you can have the best inside forwards in the country, but if you’re not winning possession and winning your fair percentage of ball in the middle of the field, you might as well have the three top forwards in the game full-forward.

Ollie Canning celebrates 21/8/2005 Source: INPHO

“If you have space and time to give a quality ball in, you can often bypass the sweeper system. The ball can travel so far in only two or three seconds. If you can get the pressure on in the middle of the field and defenders and half-backs are clearing the ball under pressure, that gives the sweeper a great chance to read that ball.

“If you’ve got time out the field, and you create overlaps out the field, sometimes you can often take the sweeper out of the game, so they speak with some quality, cross-field ball to the corner forwards.

“It’s going to be a battlefield, both teams and both sets of management know that. It’s the old saying whatever team works the hardest will have a great chance of winning the game, and that’s the facts.

“Definitely, the middle of the field is going to be crucial the next day. It’s crucial every day. You often see corner forwards getting taken off, but the simple reality is he just wasn’t getting the service off ball.

Often times it’s not his fault, the problem is out the middle of the field. Whoever gets the better of that middle eight, they’re going to have a great, great chance of winning the game.”

With some pressure taken off his brother Joe Canning’s shoulders by the likes of Joe Cooney, Conor Cooney and Conor Whelan, the Sky Sports analyst feels that Galway look a ‘more balanced and more composed’ side this year, and not just in the forwards.

And in terms of wearing the favourites tag, Canning feels that it shouldn’t make a difference.

“It’s probably something new for Galway. It will be slightly different, but how much of favourites are they? I think it’s going to be very very close. The team know that themselves, Waterford know that.

“In preparation, from a player and management point of view, that’s never spoken about before games. That would never enter my mind anyway when I was playing hurling, whether we were favourites or underdogs. From my experience, it wouldn’t be spoken about at all in the dressing room in preparation for the game.

“These players are so focused at the job at hand and what they have to do. Supporters may talk about it and the media, but from my own experience that was never an issue. And I suspect Michéal Donoghue and the management team, it’s not an issue for them and the players.

“There’s so much that you have to think about on the day, and coming up to the game. For me, the favouritism tag doesn’t come into it for the players.”

Sky Sports analyst Ollie Canning will be in the studio this weekend as Galway and Waterford go head-to-head in an historic All-Ireland hurling final, shown live on Sky Sports Arena from 2.30pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 3.30pm.

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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