Three key battles for Sunday’s clash with Kilkenny

Joe Canning v Joey Holden

Canning has been labelled one of the really supreme hurlers on the inter-county scene over the past seven years.

Joe burst on to the senior inter-county scene in 2008 and scored a fabulous 2-12 in a fourth round qualifier defeat to Cork, (Cork 0-23, Galway 2-15 ) on his way to his first of three All-Stars.

JC has also been majestic on occasion in Portumna's magnificent collection of four All-Ireland club titles.

However, despite those successes, he will want to produce a really top class performance in an All-Ireland senior final. And Galway will need him to really be on the top of his game on Sunday.

Canning has floated around a fair bit over the past few games, but his goals against Dublin and Kilkenny in the Leinster championship this year came when he was in on the edge of the square and that is where he is likely to do most damage on any given day. When he drifts out the field, the Galway goal threat is not so potent.

If the Galway number 14 could do a number on Kilkenny captain and full-back Joey Holden, it would be an inspirational lift for the team and the vast Galway travelling support.

Holden was selected at wing-back in last year's All-Ireland final drawn game with Tipperary and was replaced by Pádraig Walsh. He did not play in the replay, and with the experienced Jackie Tyrrell also out with injury for this weekend, the Kilkenny full-back line is somewhere that Galway will feel they can do well.

It is highly likely that if Galway are to win, Joe Canning will have to have played a really impressive game and scored highly.

If Holden and the Kilkenny defence tie him up, it would be a huge blow to Galway's chances of success.

Andy Smith v Michael Fennelly

Smith is having a terrific season and both he and David Burke are one of the best parings in the country at the moment. Burke hit two lovely points against Tipperary and his mobility and work-rate was a joy to watch.

It is difficult to know which of them will pick up Kilkenny's main man in the engine room, but it is likely Smith would relish the challenge.

Fennelly is a serious hurler and he has been immense for Brian Cody in the past seven or eight years.

The Ballyhale star was their captain in 2009 when they won the All-Ireland and he collected a second All-Star in 2011 at midfield and was selected as Texaco hurler of the year. He hit a crucial goal in the All-Ireland final win that year over Tipperary in 2011 and he is a real go-to man for Cody.

Fennelly has had a tough time of it with injuries in the last while and at 30 years of age he may not be quite the player he was. Smith plays the game at a very high tempo and he will want to dominate that midfield area, along with Burke. Fennelly is likely to be joined in midfield by Conor Fogarty, who is also a top player.

If Galway could get a real foothold at midfield as they did against Tipperary in the semi-final, their 2/1 odds of winning this Sunday would look extremely attractive.

Daithí Burke v Richie Hogan 

Richie Hogan needs to be stopped. End of story. He was hurler of the year last season and is one of the top players in the game. He has won four senior All-Irelands on the field of play and two as a sub in 2007 and 2008.

If Galway allow him freedom, he will exploit it ruthlessly by taking on his own scores or setting up the likes of  TJ Reid and others.

Daithí Burke would seem the ideal man to mark the Danesfort man.

Burke is having a great season after being a key figure in Corofin’s All-Ireland club success in March.  He has improved game on game with the hurlers and did a really fine marking job on Bonner Maher in the Tipperary game.

The Turloughmore man is very good in the air and is a tough cookie in close combat. He  would appear to have the ideal skills set to try to nullify Hogan.

Anthony Cunningham has a few big decisions to make in the match-ups. Who are assigned to pick up Hogan and Reid are two big calls.

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