The odds may well be stacked against them, having to play their third game in 16 days, but Galway are well equipped to take on Munster champions Limerick on Sunday (4pm ).
Last weekend Galway qualified for their fifth All-Ireland semi-final in six years with an enthralling 3-23 to 2-24 victory over Tipperary. Thus, for the second week running, the focus now will be on getting the bodies and minds right to take on the team currently regarded as the best in the land, but Galway boss Shane O’Neill’s intimate knowledge of the Limerick squad from his time as Na Piarsaigh manager will surely prove an asset.
“It’s about mental recovery more than anything,” O’Neill admitted. “It will be the third week on the trot which is tough, but the boys will only be raring to go again.
“The scale of the challenge is massive. They are coming with a week more’s rest first of all, so they have that advantage. Obviously, they have been the best team in the country over the last three years.
“They are a very difficult side to play against. They play an unbelievable style of hurling, but the boys are looking forward to it."
O’Neill and his backroom team will have to come up with a flawless game plan to tackle the unique challenges that Limerick’s all-action style of play poses.
John Kiely’s side look intent on recapturing the Liam McCarthy Cup, and with Cian Lynch, Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey, Diarmuid Byrnes, and Declan Hannon all in excellent form, Galway will have to be at their sharpest to live with a team which has won all 11 of its outings in 2020.
Limerick overpowered both Clare and Tipperary, before holding off the challenge of Waterford in a more competitive than expected Munster final.
The volume of scoring options available to them asks so many questions of defensive structures, but Galway also have plenty of players who can score from any position.
Key to Galway’s prospects will be an ability to maintain possession from their own restarts, and not cough up easy scores.
Limerick know how to starve teams of opportunities if they get into a decent lead, but Galway will surely also be itching to make amends for a harrowing 2018 All-Ireland final defeat. That day, uncharacteristic errors played a part in Galway’s downfall.
New blood has added strength and depth this year, and O’Neill will be demanding impact off the bench when the need arises.
Limerick stuttered at this stage last year, can Galway knock them off their stride this time around? Another intriguing contest awaits.
Last weekend it was Aidan Harte’s late goal that turned the tide in Galway’s favour, finally breaking Tipperary’s gallant resistance after their corner back Cathal Barrett had been dismissed on a second yellow card on 52 minutes.
The Gort man’s deadly accurate strike was Galway’s first score from play in almost 20 minutes as Liam Sheedy’s side desperately clung on to a narrow lead.
But the importance of Galway’s squad depth was soon underlined. Adrian Tuohey provided the deft assist for Harte before fellow substitutes Jason Flynn and Seán Loftus struck vital points, and Evan Niland won the free deep into stoppage time for Joe Canning’s 13th successful placed ball.
Canning had critically kept the scoreboard moving for Galway when Tipperary were repeatedly forced into fouls, with Brian Concannon and Conor Whelan again proving hard to handle when quality ball arrived into the inside line.
Cathal Mannion was a thorn in Tipperary’s side throughout with his long-range shooting and clever distribution, while he also danced around Niall O’Meara before drilling in a goal for Galway early in an action-packed first half.
Galway worryingly conceded 1-9 in the second quarter, but they were playing against the elements, and Daithí Burke more than held his own against Seamus Callanan after allowing the danger man in for an early goal.
Shane O’Neill sensed the game needed change as early as half time, and interestingly replaced two of Galway’s most experienced players in Johnny Coen and David Burke. The moves paid dividends as Tuohey proved his worth, and Eanna Murphy’s more precise variety of puckouts in the second half, even before Barrett’s sending off, gave Galway a better platform to attack as they struggled in softer conditions under the high ball against an experienced Tipperary defence.
All of this augurs well for Sunday as Galway have shown they can adapt and overcome an obstacle as formidable as Tipperary - albeit they were still thankful for Harte’s reflexes as he deflected Brian Hogan’s late free up and over the bar when extra time was still a real threat.
GALWAY: E Murphy; A Harte (1-0 ), Daithí Burke, S Cooney; F Burke, G McInerney, J Cooney (0-1 ); P Mannion, J Coen (0-1 ); J Canning (0-14, 12fs, 1 ‘sl ), C Mannion (1-3 ), David Burke; C Whelan (0-1 ), C Cooney (0-1 ), B Concannon (1-0 ). Subs: A Tuohey for David Burke (35m ), J Flynn (0-1 ) for Coen (35m ), S Loftus (0-1 ) for F Burke (58m ), E Niland for C Cooney (58m ), D Morrissey for S Cooney (71m ).
TIPPERARY : B Hogan (0-1f ); C Barrett, B Maher, R Maher (0-1f ); Pádraic Maher, N O’Meara (0-1 ), B Heffernan (0-1 ); A Flynn (0-2 ), M Breen (0-2 ); D McCormack (0-2 ), N McGrath (0-4 ), Patrick Maher (1-0 ); J Forde (0-6, 5fs ), S Callanan (1-2, 0-1f ), J Morris (0-1 ). Subs: W Connors (0-1 ) for Patrick Maher (50m ); J McGrath for N McGrath (53m ); P Cadell for N O’Meara (59m ), P Flynn for Forde (65m ); M Kehoe for McCormack (73m ).
REFEREE: Johnny Murphy (Limerick ).