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Wednesday 19 September 2018

Mannion: Tribes a united force

 

SUPER SHOW: Cathal Mannion in action for Galway against Kilkenny on Sunday
SUPER SHOW: Cathal Mannion in action for Galway against Kilkenny on Sunday

If you're one of nine strong contenders competing for six forward berths, it doesn't do any harm to nail six points from play in a 'Man of the Match' performance.

Safe to say that, barring some training mishap, Cathal Mannion will be starting when All-Ireland holders Galway return to the s emi-final arena at the end of July.

"Look, it is about the team," Mannion protested in the wake of Sunday's personal tour de force in Thurles, "and on the panel you need lads driving you.

"You don't mind who starts ... obviously you would like to start yourself, but you know the lads in for you or the lad coming on for you is going to do a job too. That is what you need in a team."

And that's what Galway have right now, specifically in attack where nine players have been jostling for starting positions all summer.

Three of the six who featured from the throw-in to Sunday's Leinster final replay triumph over Kilkenny have started all six SHC games this summer - Mannion along with Joseph Cooney and Conor Whelan.

But how many Galway forwards qualify as guaranteed starters? You could obviously make the case for Joe Canning (who missed the Dublin dead-rubber after shipping a bang to his knee against Wexford) and probably his fellow All Star Whelan.

However, another All Star incumbent lost his place for the replay after a subdued day-one showing. Conor Cooney was displaced by Johnny Glynn, who repaid management's faith and their pursuit of a more direct approach by wreaking early carnage in front of the Kilkenny goal.

Cooney came on after 47 minutes (replacing Niall Burke) with a point to prove. Jason Flynn, who has spent most of this campaign as a sub, then replaced Joseph Cooney just beyond the hour.

Both subs contributed a point apiece along with a couple of late assists, reminding manager Micheál Donoghue that they're ready and primed.

Rising star Brian Concannon completes the set of nine forwards who have been pushing hard. He started Galway's first two games against Offaly (when he tallied 2-1 on his SHC debut) and then Kilkenny in Pearse Stadium.

Riches

Concannon was a 65th minute sub for Mannion in the drawn Leinster final but, having started midweek for the Galway U21s in their epic extra-time win over Wexford, perhaps it was no surprise that he remained on the Semple Stadium bench.

For all the attacking riches at his disposal, Donoghue is not a man for rushing into changes - he made just three substitutions in both the drawn Leinster final and Sunday's replay. Moreover, his defensive Plan Bs are far less obvious, hence a tendency to persist with the same back-six all game.

After Galway completed their first ever Leinster two-in-a-row, Mannion paid tribute to Glynn's starting impact, declaring: "Johnny is a massive player for us, delighted for him that he got his chance. He really deserved it."

But modesty prevented any blowing of his own trumpet. He has spent much of the summer at wing-forward but operated closer to goal for longer on Sunday; having tallied just 0-4 in the four round-robin ties, he has struck a further nine points (0-3 and 0-6) over the last two weekends.

"I suppose it was just one of those days that everything you hit went over. But it was a team performance and the lads that came in really drove it on as well," Mannion insisted.

Still driving on. And still the team to beat ...

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