Galway on the double as titanic tussle awaits

Padraic Mannion of Galway during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 3 match between Galway and Kilkenny at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Piaras ? M?dheach/Sportsfile

Padraic Mannion of Galway during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 3 match between Galway and Kilkenny at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Piaras ? M?dheach/Sportsfile

When the shrill of the final whistle echoes around the cauldron that will be Croke Park on Sunday afternoon, will it be back-to-back All Ireland senior hurling titles for the first time in three decades for Galway, or will Limerick have bridged a 45-year gap since last annexing the Liam McCarthy Cup?

When the sliotar throws in and 70 minutes of tussle ensue, the much sought after Celtic Cross medal will be the reward for the championship season's toil displayed by both sets of players.

In what has been an exhilarating revised senior hurling championship, both counties have provided moments of sheer brilliance that will live long in the supporters' memory bank as the nights draw in and fireside chats about the season that was begin in earnest.

Galway, who last completed successive All Ireland senior hurling wins in 1987 and 1988 are slight favourites to repeat this feat at GAA HQ. Their experience at this stage of the campaign may just be the detail that ensures the Liam McCarthy Cup crosses the River Shannon and into the west.

Little separates the teams - physically on point with skill levels to complement, the green pastures of Croke Park are certain to be graced by athletes in their prime, all of a similar mindset - compete, compete, compete, until the final whistle blows and the aspiration that the ascension up the Hogan Stand steps to raise that prized silverware aloft comes true.

With Joe Canning in imperious form this championship season, the roving centre forward offers more than just his scoring prowess. Leadership qualities in abundance, the Portumna powerhouse has garnered deserved credit for his tackling abilities this campaign, with opposition players constantly pressurised to rid possession of the sliotar in an aimless manner when the No 11 is in pursuit.

Just one of a strong spine of this current Galway team, Canning is the player to whom his maroon and white clad teammates look for inspiration when the game is delicately poised on the scoreboard - his majestic sideline cut late on against Clare in the replayed semi-final being an apt description of his capabilities in this regard.

Should Gearoid McInerney return from injury to his centre back berth this further enhances Galway's chances of retaining the title. Complemented expertly by his full back Daithi Burke, both players - assisted by their defensive colleagues, most notably Padraig Mannion, - have lifted the scoring siege on the Tribes' back six when the need arose, and with Johnny Coen roaming effortlessly as an extra defender at times, solidity in this particular area of the team may cause attacking issues for Limerick.

Johnny Glynn has become an integral member of the forward sextet. The full forward can claw sliotar from the sky with ease when the outfield players need him most and has contributed important scores during the team's advance on their marked calendar date, August 19.

With Cathal Mannion and Conor Whelan always in lung burst mode, working tirelessly to the benefit of the team, while clipping scores in the process, the offensive threat is a perennial feature of Galway's game.

Conor Cooney strikes a scoring streak in games, and with the impact nature of Jason Flynn and Niall Burke, now known as finishers not substitutes, the Limerick defensive unit may feel well overworked as the match concludes on Sunday evening.

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