The Galway senior footballers will head to Croke Park this weekend for their All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Kerry (2pm ) knowing that they will have to considerably increase their intensity and work-rate all over the field if they are going to stop Kerry playing the free-flowing football that ripped Cork to shreds in the Munster final.
To say that there will be a step up in class from the game last weekend, when they did very well at certain stages to beat Tipperary by 4-17 to 4-12, is a major understatement.
At a very basic level, Kerry have been a top class Division One team for decades, whereas Tipp have only this year been promoted up to Division Three.
And that is only one example of the completely different orbits in the GAA that they inhabit.
That said, Galway will head to Dublin for a game that almost every pundit in the country expects them to lose, with some genuine positives after last weekend’s victory.
The midfield duo of Thomas Flynn and Fiontán Ó Curraoin gelled well and both men supported their attack with gusto and took their goals with great efficiency.
The pace of Michael Lundy and Danny Cummins caused lots of trouble for the Tipp rearguard and hopefully both men will be able to do the same next Sunday against the Kerry defence.
Michael Martin showed good vision in possession and hit three nice points into the bargain.
Team captain Paul Conroy showed very good leadership and linked the play very well, and his ability to kick scores off both feet is a major plus.
If fed the right supply, and left in a one-on-one, you would imagine that he could do some real damage on Kerry’s Aidan O’Mahony on the edge of the square.
Young Shane Walsh will hopefully produce a few more nuggets of sublime skill such as his tremendous point from Conroy’s low trajectory 45 in the first half. He will also have to keep a close eye on Kerry’s Killian Young who is well able to attack.
At the back Paul Varley picked up a lot of ball and was very lively and creative in loose play as well as hitting one very good point.
Goalkeeper Tom Healy also found his men very well with his kick-outs and made one top class save from a flicked ball. Four goals did go in by him, however the bulk of the criticism for those has to be directed to the men outside him.
It was good to see Joss Moore back too and the 70 minutes of championship action should have brought him on a good bit.
Kerry kickers must be put under pressure
This Sunday the Galway players all over the field, especially in the middle third, and in the full-back line, will have to be really forceful and full of intensity to put the Kerry players under pressure when they have the ball.
If the Kerry players out the field are allowed look up and hit in their passes without being put under savage pressure, then the Galway full-back line will be in for a torrid 70 minutes.
Declan O’Sullivan in particular has to be stopped. Easier said than done, I know.
In the Munster final, Kerry were allowed to pick their passes into their forwards. Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side did not misplace a single pass in 31 minutes of the second half, and they only misplaced six passes in the entire game.
Plus, when it came to shooting, 17 of Kerry’s 27 shots were taken under no pressure.
If Galway allow Kerry that kind of space then the likes of James O’Donoghue, Declan O’Sullivan, Donnacha Walsh, and Paul Geaney will run riot.
Even if Galway do step their performance up considerably, it is still very difficult not to predict a Kingdom victory.
The bookies have no doubt on the matter and Galway can be had at 10/3 or better, with Kerry at 2/7.
They are also giving Galway a four-point head start in the handicap and have Galway plus four at 11/10.
One advantage that Alan Mulholland’s men do have is the element of surprise. Kerry will be coming to Dublin totally confident and fully expecting an easy victory.
If Galway can come out and really rattle into Kerry and get a good headstart, and ask some bona fide questions of the Kerry rearguard, maybe with a goal or two, who knows what could happen?
I am not totally convinced about the Kerry defence.
They conceded 3-18 to Dublin last year in the semi-final and are without genuine leaders such as Tomás Ó Sé, Paul Galvin, and Colm Cooper since then.
There are no certainties in sport and, while I expect Kerry to win, hopefully this young Galway side can push them all the way and make it a lot tighter than many people expect.