The form of John McGrath and his brother Noel (background) is a concern ahead of Tipperary’s All Ireland quarter final against Galway. Photo: Bridget Delaney

Big calls to be made in Tipp team for Galway clash

It’s back to Limerick for the Tipperary senior hurlers on Saturday as they take on Galway in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship quarter final.

By Shane Brophy

GALWAY v TIPPERARY

LIT Gaelic Grounds, Limerick

Saturday 21st November

Throw-in @ 1.15pm (E.T. & Pens)

Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)

It’s back to Limerick for the Tipperary senior hurlers on Saturday as they take on Galway in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship quarter final.

This was probably the draw neither side would have wanted but off the back of contrasting results last weekend, although the winner should take a massive momentum boost into a semi-final against either Limerick or Kilkenny.

Playing the game at the LIT Gaelic Grounds should give Tipperary a small advantage considering they know the itinerary of the day in the current Covid climate having seen off Cork there last weekend, plus they know how the pitch plays and the weather doesn’t look like it is going to improve much in the next few days. This is in contrast to Galway who haven’t gotten their jerseys dirty at all with their two games to date, playing on the carpet in Croke Park, in virtually the best conditions you can get at this time of the year.

Certainly, the rain seems to be following Tipperary around like a bad smell in the championship so far and they are well used to it but ideally they would like a drier track to show their best, and the fact they played their best hurling in the period when the rain stopped in Limerick last Saturday was notable.

In contrast to Cork who play with a greater mobility, Tipperary will face a more physical challenge in Galway who will be coming in a little sore at having to play a quarter final. For long stages of the Leinster Final they were the better team but the concession of two goals in 59 seconds undid all their good work and despite initially responding to the double blow, they had allowed Kilkenny back into the match and the damage was done.

Tipperary need to pray on any psychological hangover Galway might have, but it is unlikely to be too much as they are a very good side with a mix of style, strength and athleticism that Tipperary find hard to cope with.

In that respect, team selection will be interesting, particularly in terms of how Liam Sheedy wishes to approach it. Key among that will be what to do with Noel & John McGrath who have been ineffectual in the championship so far. It could well be down to the club championship demands which saw them play on eleven consecutive weekends but hopefully the sting of watching on helplessly from the bench in the closing stages against Cork will inspire them into a positive reaction.

However, the impact Willie Connors made off the bench and the creative role Jake Morris played at centre forward may see one or both McGrath’s held back and what an option they would be off the bench if they were sent into the fray in the second half when they match is there to be won.

Jason Forde is the only injury concern with a tight hamstring following the win over Cork and certainly Tipp will want to have him as every free will be so important in a game as tight as this will be.

In terms of the team, the goalkeeper, and the back six should remain unchanged with some fascinating matchups expected, including Cathal Barrett on Brian Concannon and Ronan Maher on Conor Whelan which should go along way to deciding the outcome. With Joe Canning playing a freer role for Galway, it would seem made for Brendan Maher to track him around the field as it should allow the Borris-Ileigh man to get on more ball himself and influence proceedings.

Tipperary have got to be compact in defence. Galway will look to drag them all over the place so the midfield and half forwards will have to drop back and do more of the donkey work and as we saw last Saturday, Tipperary are more of a threat on the counter-attack when they have space to play into the forwards and that gets the best out of Seamus Callanan.

The physicality of Michael Breen, Patrick Maher and Dan McCormack will be a huge asset against a physically imposing Galway side where winning primary possession is so important. In that respect, Willie Connors ability to get on the ball and bring others into the play, would be a good option to start with maybe bringing on more scoring when the game opens up in the second half when players tire, as they will in their second match in seven days.

You would have to think if there is a team with the greater scope for improvement it is Tipperary and certainly when their character was tested against Cork they came through with flying colours, whereas Galway wilted with the finish line in sight against Kilkenny.

The last three championship games between the sides have been one-point contests either way and another tight one is expected and in an underdog role, Tipperary are more than capable of staying alive once more and pressing to an All-Ireland semi-final.

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