Tony Considine on why Kilkenny and Galway can make the All-Ireland final

Tony Considine on why Kilkenny and Galway can make the All-Ireland final

Galway's Conor Whelan and Kilkenny's Conor Delaney in action in the Leinster final two weeks ago. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

IT may not have been a long, hot summer of hurling but this championship has shortened the winter.

And now we are coming to the business end of the championship. Croke Park on All-Ireland semi-finals are big occasions, but unfortunately this year there won't be any big crowds.

I think that is very difficult for people, but I think the ones that feel it most are the parents of the players involved. It is a huge honour to play inter-county hurling and not having your nearest and dearest in attendance is a huge disappointment. 

These are the people who have put so much time and effort and finance into getting you to that level. Since you were a young lad they're the ones taking you to training and matches all over the place. 

I think the GAA should have made a special request for the parents of all players to attend these games, especially on big days like the upcoming weekend. Surely in an 82,000 seater stadium, social distancing could be adhered to quite easily?

So, on to the games. 

Cathal Mannion of Galway in action against Pádraic Maher of Tipperary. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Cathal Mannion of Galway in action against Pádraic Maher of Tipperary. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

On Saturday, it's Waterford and Kilkenny. All the talk so far this year is about the major improvement made by Waterford, a great win against Cork the first day out, which was not expected, a fine performance against Limerick in the Munster final, and then very impressive in putting away Clare in the quarter-final last Saturday. 

Definitely, Liam Cahill and his management team are getting the best out of their team. But this is a different type of test for them. They are coming up against the cats who are very used to occasions like this, so much Croke Park experience, you could say it's nearly their home pitch. 

Waterford do not always deliver in Croke Park and the expectation is fairly high now. 

Calum Lyons. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Calum Lyons. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Fair play to Liam Cahill, he has them playing as a team, very much his own man. Reputations mean nothing to him, and definitely not afraid to make the hard calls. I'm sure Austin Gleeson is aware of that now, as he took him off in the last two games. And rightly so, in my opinion, no one man bigger than the team with Liam. 

I think Austin Gleeson would better serve the team as a defender, along with Tadhg de Burca and Calum Lyons. That trio would make a brilliant half-back line, with Kevin Moran going to midfield to help Jamie Barron. This would give the Waterford team more balance. 

Stephen Bennett has been playing exceptionally well, free-taking immaculate and surely in line for an All-Star now. I'm also looking forward to seeing Dessie Hutchinson playing in Croke Park. He is a real talent and I think this pitch will really suit him.

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson scores his second goal against Clare. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson scores his second goal against Clare. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Waterford are up against the masters here. They may not have the players of old but being Kilkenny, they always have good hurlers, and what is more, they believe that as well. Conor Delaney, Paddy Deegan, Hue Lawlor and of course the great Padraig Walsh, defenders that won't give much away, and all these in front of the best goalkeeper in hurling, Eoin Murphy.

Conor Brown in the middle of the field is a good link-man along with Richie Leahy, and of course, any forward line that includes TJ Reid has to be feared. John Donnelly, Colin Fennelly and another master craftsman Richie Hogan, will keep any defenders on their toes, and more importantly, will keep the scoreboard ticking over. 

And as we know by now, you never have them beaten until you are halfway down the motorway! I expect a big performance from Waterford, but I think the inexperience of Croke Park plus their third week in a row might come against them. Kilkenny to shade it.

TJ Reid hits the net. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
TJ Reid hits the net. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Then on to Limerick and Galway. What a battle this should be. 

These are two big physical teams that play on the edge. No place for the faint-hearted, big hits will be the order of the day, but these two teams can hurl as well. 

Limerick have not lost a game this year and seem to be improving all the time, but they were in the same situation last year when they took on Kilkenny at the same stage, and we all know how that ended. 

This Limerick team stick to a plan all the time. Limerick remind me of the Dublin football team, using their power and strength in keeping possession and moving through the lines. And it has been very successful for them. 

Two of their full-back line have been missing so far this year, but I would not be surprised if one of them started. Richie English, who seems to be back to full fitness now. 

Sean Finn and Diarmuid Byrnes are playing very well. Will we see Kyle Hayes is the defence again? Will Darragh O'Donovan start? Will Cian Lynch go to midfield or centre-forward? 

Cian Lynch. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Cian Lynch. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Limerick have so many options. A powerful player like Gearoid Hegarty is having a great year and there's Aaron Gillane, their key inside forward. Then, with his work-rate and score-taking, you have Graham Mulcahy, a first-class player with a first-class attitude.

Galway will match Limerick in all those aspects of the game. They should have won the Leinster title, caught by the Cats but nothing new there. Then they had that good win against Tipperary. 

Confidence has got to be high. And in Daithí Burke, Fintan Burke, Aidan Harte, Padraig Mannion and Gearoid McInerney, they have top-class defenders. 

Cathal Mannion, Brian Concannon and Conor Whelan along with the great Joe Canning will give Limerick plenty of problems. 

A fit David Burke will also add a lot to Galway. 

Limerick will be favourites, and rightly so. But I think the best hurling game I have seen this year was the Leinster final between Galway and Kilkenny. And their win over Tipperary will have brought them on a lot. 

Daithí Burke. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Daithí Burke. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

It's their third week in a row, but they hurl well in Croke Park. 

I believe they may have enough.

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