O’Neill prepares Galway for battle against his native county

 An inevitable meeting for Shane O'Neill as Galway face the manager's native county Limerick in Sunday's All Ireland hurling semi-final. Photo by Piaras  Mcdheach/Sportsfile

An inevitable meeting for Shane O'Neill as Galway face the manager's native county Limerick in Sunday's All Ireland hurling semi-final. Photo by Piaras Mcdheach/Sportsfile

Galway manager Shane O'Neill will be hoping to prevail over his native county Limerick in Croke Park on Sunday to ensure a place in this year's hurling decider. And, he says, his side will need to up its game if Galway are to contest their 26th All Ireland final next month.

The former Limerick and Na Piarsaigh star revealed this week he had temporarily cut off communication with his former clubmates and friends to concentrate on Galway's championship challenge.

"I know the [Limerick] boys very well, particularly the Na Pairsaigh lads, and I think there are seven of them in the squad. We've been in regular contact in my own club, but we decided we'd stop after the provincial finals, so we've had no contact for a while," he says.

However he knows their form, and says when Galway lost the March league game and a challenge match, it showed the improvement needed for the Tribesmen to succeed this season.

"We were still finding our feet at that stage. We learned we had a huge amount of work to do to catch up to Limerick because they were very slick, particularly in the second half, and they pulled away easily in the end. It showed the amount of work we needed to do."

True grit

Since then Galway have gained momentum in a short space of time.

"Huge credit to the players because they've only had a few weeks since the county final, so we had a short window. Sometimes that can help, that bit of freshness, not getting too bogged down in any particular type of game plan, and letting the boys just hurl.

"In fairness, they have hurled very well over the last three games, but to overcome Limerick we are going to have to be at a different level altogether.

"I felt we player better hurling against Kilkenny. We knew it was going to be a tight affair with Tipperary, as it always is. They are the All Ireland champions, so they were not going to give it up easily, and in all Galway v Tip matches, particularly over the last three or four years, there has been only one score in it."

But, the biggest positive, he says, was the players "showed a bit of true grit to come out and win it".

That will be needed against Limerick, and despite the short turn around to Sunday's game, O'Neill reports no injuries and believes his side has the momentum.

"There's a lot to be said for having games on a weekly basis because you are creating good momentum. Obviously you are looking at Limerick having had a week off and are able to relax to a certain extent from having a national game day, but they would have trained extremely hard I would assume, so I'm not sure it makes that much of a difference."

Now Galway face their biggest challenge to date, O'Neill's home county, which he felt was always inevitable.

"The first day of the league was a wee bit strange," he says, but the entire year has been strange.

"The fact that we are playing in Croke Park, totally empty stadium, in an All Ireland semi-final in the middle of November, that's a lot stranger than managing a team against your own county."

 

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