Galway favourites to retain Leinster title, but they can expect a stern test

Dublin remain the 9/4 outsiders against Galway this Sunday in the Leinster hurling final at Croke Park (4pm ), despite having ditched Kilkenny out of the championship.

Last Saturday Dublin shocked Kilkenny at O' Moore Park with a 1-16 to 0-16 victory, but Galway are 2/5 favourites to retain the title after their success over Kilkenny last season, with the draw at 10/1.

Galway's form was patchy enough in their win over Laois and they will need to improve significantly on that display if they are to take down Anthony Daly's side, which played with great gusto and bravery in that suprising win over the Cats.

That victory was based on a superb defensive performance, inspired by the outstanding Liam Rushe and Stephen Hiney in the half-back line, and Niall Corcoran and Peter Kelly in the full-back line.

Dublin also moved wing-forward Danny Sutcliffe from attack into defence, keeping things really tight for the Kilkenny forwards, who only shot five points from play.

That tactic was extremely successful last weekend and is expected to be utilised again this Sunday.

Paul Ryan (0-8, 6fs ) and David O' Callaghan (0-4 ) were the players who did the damage up front for Daly's men, and Danny Sutcliffe scored the crucial goal.

Team captain Johnny McCaffrey and Joey Boland lined out in midfield last weekend, but Boland was replaced by Shane Durkin after 45 minutes.

No doubt, they will be full of confidence and self-belief after that great win and, as a result, Galway team captain and current All-Star, Fergal Moore knows Dublin will be very difficult to beat.

"The Leinster semi-final against Laois was a tough game from start to finish,” says Moore. “They had the benefit of two championship games under their belt and it showed throughout the 70 minutes. We were very ring rusty and struggled to make possession count on the scoreboard all through. However, while it wasn't pretty, we kept at it, and ground out the result we wanted in the end which was pleasing. "

Moore now expects this Sunday to be a big step up in class and intensity.

"The Leinster final this Sunday will be another huge step up for us. We are facing a team riding the crest of a wave with several championship matches already won and some notable scalps taken along the way. They have top-class players all over the field and it will undoubtedly be a massive battle from start to finish. We have worked hard in training since the Laois game and preparations have gone well.

"Competition for places is huge at the moment and the mood in the camp is very good. Everybody is well aware of the importance of the game on Sunday. Our focus is on delivering a team performance high on work-rate and honesty. The result will take care of itself after that."

The last time the sides met in championship was in 2011 in Tullamore in the Leinster semi-final which Dublin won by 0-19 to 2-7.

Only three Galway players scored that day, Joe Canning 1-3, Joe Gantley 1-3, and Alan Kerins 0-1. Paul Ryan was Dublin's top scorer with 0-13 and Conal Keaney notched 0-3.

Galway's personnel has changed since that clash and so has the team management, but the memory of that defeat should ensure players like Moore, Cyril Donnellan, Joe Canning, David Collins and David Burke are highly fired up for the game and know the challenge that the team faces.

The winners on Sunday will be in the All-Ireland semi-finals on August 11; the losers will be in the All-Ireland quarter-finals on July 28 against a phase three winner.


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