Thursday 20 October 2016

What if deadly Joe Canning and the 'real' Galway show up to play Dublin

noel connors
noel connors

IT'S gone beyond a cliché for hurling pundits to conclude their match predictions with the rider: "It all depends on which Galway turns up."

In more recent times we've had an extension of this caveat: "If Joe Canning turns up, then anything is possible."

Last Sunday, then, bucked the trend. Canning turned up but not in his usual metronomic guise: he tallied almost as many wides (five) as points (six), his misses including one gilt-edged goal chance.

Afterwards, there was talk that a nasty hand injury suffered during a recent challenge match had hindered Galway's great white hope.

Yet, on this occasion, Galway still survived aided by some less celebrated forwards like Cyril Donnellan (0-3), Cathal Mannion (0-3) and Jason Flynn (0-2).

Question is, might Canning be in better shape to cut loose in tomorrow's replay?

"You get 14 or 15 stitches in your hand, you are without using your hand for two or three weeks … it's bound to be sore, you are not fully right," says Conor Hayes, the last man to skipper Galway to All-Ireland glory, 27 years ago. "Hopefully the week will help him; hopefully he didn't do any damage."

Former Dublin boss Michael O'Grady is banking on his belief that injury isn't the only reason why Canning didn't flourish five days ago.

"A lot of guys at this stage have got Joe's number," he suggests. "He'll get a spectacular goal once in a while, but his overall play hasn't been the same as we all expected. And that's going back now for a few years. He looks supremely fit, and I know he had a hand problem last Sunday."

O'Grady continues: "If you were part of Galway's management you'd be frustrated with Joe because there's so much in the guy. If he could only be on the ball for much more time. And if the Galway players played him more - in my book, they don't play him enough at all.

"In fairness to Joe, he won't shirk it if the ball goes over his head - he'll go for it, he's a brave man. In my book he doesn't look hard enough for ball, but I hope that continues for another week at least!"

Conor Hayes managed Galway to the 2005 All-Ireland final and, thus, is acutely aware of the county's propensity to lurch between extremes. The same inconsistency, even within matches, "has been dogging them all year" and did so again at times last Sunday. Still, the resultant stalemate has given him grounds for cautious optimism.

"They tried out younger players - they have to because of injuries - and they seem to be working out," says Hayes. "Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion won a lot of ball last Sunday and looked dangerous ... and Cyril Donnellan is a big boost, he hasn't played for a couple of years, a good man to drive the team forward.

"If Galway can play for 70 minutes like they did for 20 last Sunday, they should be confident of winning. Dublin the same: there is inconsistency there as well."

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