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Monday 15 October 2018

New Tribesmen have too much firepower for Davy's warriors

Leinster SHC Wexford v Galway (Wexford Park, Today, 5.0 Live Sky Sports)

ROCK: Gearóid McInerney. Pic: Sportsfile
ROCK: Gearóid McInerney. Pic: Sportsfile

Galway being the very obvious barometer for hurling excellence just now, Wexford have an ideal chance this evening to measure how far they've come over the past year.

The authority that Michéal Donoghue's men showed in beating Kilkenny last week was, perhaps, a more visible demonstration of their pre-eminence just now than any other single performance they submitted in sweeping the boards last year.

So long the problem child of the elite hurling counties - a team that had all the material but none of the output - it's hard to picture Galway now as they once were, depicted as psychologically flaky and lacking the right players in the central positions of their defence.

To that end, the rise and rise again of Daithí Burke and Gearóid McInerney have been crucial.

Burke gave away several inches and plenty of bulk to Walter Walsh last weekend in Salthill but won more than he lost over the Kilkenny man.

Lee Chin shone like a beacon. Pic: Sportsfile
Lee Chin shone like a beacon. Pic: Sportsfile

McInerney meanwhile, has yet to spring a leak.

Swatted away

Teams have attempted to dislodge him with direct, aerial ball or with low deliveries to a pacey number 11 but he has swatted away every challenge that has come to his door over the past 18 months.

It helps that Páraic Mannion has become such a leader in that defence also, a group that confined Kilkenny to just 1-2 from play last Sunday. But Galway are thriving in every area of the pitch at the moment.

Conor Whelan, an outstanding candidate for Hurler of the Year right until last year's All-Ireland final, never really cut loose against Kilkenny last week but Galway scarcely missed him.

The same with Joseph Cooney, who has the winning of the match in his wrists. But last week in was Conor Cooney who did the damage, while Joe Canning is beginning to find his best form again.

In a show of their awesome strength just now, Donoghue brought Jonathan Glynn, Niall Burke and Jason Flynn on as substitutes in the second half.

Last year, Galway dismissed Wexford at their ease in the Leinster final.

On a day when Matthew O'Hanlon outscored Joe Canning from play and Lee Chin shone like a beacon, Galway won every other individual battle convincingly.

They toyed with Wexford's sweeper but mostly, they destroyed Davy Fitzgerald's team in the air.

Conor Cooney scored seven points from play that day but all through their defence, Wexford sustained serious damage from Galway's aerial bombardment.

And whether it was a pre-ordained plan or not, Galway essentially took Wexford's sweeper out of the game by being content with scoring long-range points - a large part of their final total of 0-29.

Since then, Paudie Foley has emerged as strong presence around the middle third for Wexford, exactly what was required, while Rory O'Connor is quickly blossoming into one of the most excited and composed attackers in the country.

Wexford's pace and thinly-spread scoring power can certainly cause Galway problems, particularly if they get their puck outs taken quickly enough.

But the Tribesmen won an All-Ireland title last year playing the game on their own terms and they can do so again here.

ODDS: Wexford 9/4, Draw 10/1, Galway 4/9

VERDICT: Galway

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