herald

Friday 2 December 2016

When two Tribes go to war

Sparks could fly between best of enemies as Dublin and Galway seek January edge

Dublin defender Chris Crummey Photo:Sportsfile
Dublin defender Chris Crummey Photo:Sportsfile
Dublin sharpshooter Paul Ryan Photo:Sportsfile

The insinuation is that Dublin hurlers and their Galway counterparts don't particularly like each other. That they wouldn't fancy sharing a joke over a high-protein shake. It's a perception that stretches all the way to Boston.

So will there be skin and ash splinters flying over Donnycarney tomorrow afternoon? Maybe so. Or maybe not - it is the Walsh Cup.

The melee that erupted in most unlikely circumstances last November - a Super 11s exhibition game in Fenway Park - has fuelled the notion of Dublin/Galway animosity and is why some people are predicting a 'two Tribes go to war' reprise here.

Antagonism

But events in a faraway baseball field, in a match that didn't matter, are hardly the reason for antagonism, more a manifestation of it.

If Dublin have a reason to dislike Galway, it probably has a lot more to do with the humiliation they endured in Tullamore last June.

And for that, they can blame themselves far more than Galway. Dublin turned up in body but not mind for that Leinster quarter-final replay ... their rivals just happened to have their antennae tuned into Dublin's vulnerability and went for the jugular, early and often.

The curious thing about tomorrow's Bord na Móna Walsh Cup semi-final is how much has changed since then.

Galway went on to reach the All-Ireland final and even appeared poised to win it, only for a second half implosion to be followed by a player coup drawn out to a ridiculous degree before the inevitable came to pass ... Anthony Cunningham walked, and a squad now in the pressure-cooker spotlight have a new boss, Michael Donoghue.

And Dublin? Their fortunes picked up from that O'Connor Park nadir but not to any significant degree. There followed arguably as difficult an off-season for Ger Cunningham.

Yet the early-season portents are upbeat. Both Dublin and Galway have marched serenely through their Walsh Cup groups, 100pc records intact after three games. The truculent Tribesmen of last autumn would appear to have embraced the new regime.

Meanwhile, Dublin have scored heavily against UCD, Antrim and Laois - averaging 3-20 - with a mix of established stars and wannabes.

Giving game-time to the likes of Rob Hardy in defence, Cian McBride in midfield, Fionntán Mac Gib and Chris Bennett in attack, has been a beneficial exercise. A score-hungry Eamonn Dillon has put his hand up for a sustained league run. Oisín Gough has made a seamless Sky Blue comeback.

Invention

All the experimentation, though, is partly predicated on necessity being the mother of invention. It's instructive to recall who started for Dublin in that quarter-final replay with Galway last summer - and consider how many haven't been available for this Walsh Cup campaign.

Goalkeeper Alan Nolan and midfielder Simon Lambert have been dropped. The entire full-back line is out of commission, with Cian O'Callaghan college-tied, Michael Carton having quit the panel mid-summer, and Paul Schutte recuperating from a shoulder injury.

Conal Keaney is club-tied with the Ballyboden footballers but also, seemingly, on the cusp of retirement. Ryan O'Dwyer is still recovering from injuries sustained in a Birmingham assault last October. Former All Star Danny Sutcliffe has opted out this year.

That leaves just seven - Chris Crummey, Shane Durkin, Darragh O'Connell, Liam Rushe, 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan, David Treacy and Mark Schutte - who started in Tullamore last June and have been available in some guise this month.

It's an evolving Dublin but, bolstered by home advantage, they might want this more.

Odds: Dub 8/11 Draw 9/1 Galway 5/4

Verdict: Dublin

Walsh Cup semi-final: Dublin v Galway, Parnell Park, Tomorrow (2.0)

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