Galway must turn up heat - and give ace trio a platform
As Sunday Game pundits Pat Spillane and Seán Cavanagh dissected Galway's non-performance against Monaghan in Pearse Stadium, it got us thinking about their capacity or otherwise to turn on the intensity tap.
Galway didn't have to win on Saturday evening - and boy did it show.
"They were flat, they weren't the Galway that we watched from February, that are tough-tackling, that are breaking with pace," Cavanagh reflected.
Whereas it will be win-or-bust against Dublin this Saturday so, presumably, Kevin Walsh's men will play as if lives depend upon it? Or even play as Monaghan did against them?
Cavanagh thinks so. "I fully expect Galway to bring a completely different (attitude)," the Tyrone legend predicted. "I fully expect Galway to be there or thereabouts with Dublin ... and there could be an ambush on the cards."
His colleague was having none of it, insisting: "I think Dublin are miles ahead."
And then Spillane urged Galway to "be braver" this weekend, harking back to the league final when "for a good stretch they put it up to them. But then Dublin went a man down, Galway had a man extra and had to chase the game - and they never chased the game."
We hope, for the sake of a championship that badly needs a pair of rip-roaring semi-finals, that Cavanagh is right about Galway. But part of us remains to be convinced. We have seen quite a bit of them in the flesh this summer - the Connacht final and then all three Super 8 contests.
And maybe it's the nagging memory of Galway at their worst - the first half against Roscommon, and all of last Saturday - but we can't shake the impression of a team at times imprisoned by their own caution.
Systems are all very well, and it has obviously worked for Galway to the extent that they conceded just one goal in eight league matches and a further four in six SFC encounters. Five goals in 14 games is a lesson in frugality.
But? Protecting the 'D' won't necessarily help you win a match if you have multiple bodies back but not enough of them putting those bodies on the line, as countless Monaghan tacklers did on Saturday.
Moreover, Galway's tendency to give opponents free reign nearer the touchline has backfired more than once. We're thinking of the space afforded Vinny Corey up the left flank in Salthill; or how Darren Hughes nailed his two points from wide positions … or even how they allowed a one-on-one mismatch between Ciaráin Murtagh and forward-cum-defender Barry McHugh, allowing the Roscommon man to race unmolested from the left corner of Hyde Park and through for a first half goal.
That appeared to be a case of the system breaking down. The trouble now is that Dublin are so adept at hogging the touchline and using the full width of Croke Park to stretch and unravel a blanket defence.
We are not urging Galway to abandon a system that has brought them to a Division 1 final and so deep into the championship.
But they must engage the opposition far more, as they did in the second half against Roscommon; they must take a leaf out of Monaghan's book ... and they must maximise the attacking weapons in their armoury. Otherwise it's all damage limitation.
Shane Walsh, Ian Burke and Damien Comer are three very different players - but also three potential match-winners.
On Saturday, they managed 0-2 from play between them along with two Walsh frees. They need to show far more against Dublin ... but they must be given the platform.