Cork will pose a big challenge for Mulholland's men

Shane Walsh, Galway, in action against Mark Shields, Armagh. Pic: Ray Ryan, Sportsfile.

Shane Walsh, Galway, in action against Mark Shields, Armagh. Pic: Ray Ryan, Sportsfile.

A good few of the Galway football community will head up the motorway to Croke Park this Saturday to support the county senior footballers when, for the first time since 2008, Alan Mulholland's team face Cork at 5pm.

Cork were All-Ireland champions as recently as 2010 and are deemed by most people as the likely victors of this Round Four tie.

They are 1/7 to win on Saturday, with Galway at 11/2, to advance to the quarter-finals. In the handicap betting, Galway are +6, at evens.

It would appear based on those odds that Galway are only going to Dublin to make up the numbers. Cork have many household names in their side such as Aidan Walsh, Paul Kerrigan, Paddy Kelly, Graham Canty, Pearse O' Neill, and Michael Shields.

Brian Hurley starred with their U-21s this season at full-forward and is a big addition too; he and Ciarán Sheehan will take watching.

There is no doubt but that they are a talented outfit and they are well able to rack up good score-lines, as their 3-17 (v Limerick ), 1-20 (v Clare ), and 0-17 in the Munster final with Kerry proved.

That said, they can have bad days too and nobody expected Mayo to beat them in 2011 in the quarter-finals, when James Horan's men beat them by 1-13 to 2-6.

Now, I am not saying that Galway are at the same standard as Mayo, we know that we are not from what happened in May. However, if Galway can keep things tight between the sides for the first 40 or 50 minutes, then Cork will start to ask questions of themselves.

For that to happen, the Galway midfield partnership of Tom Flynn and Paul Conroy will have to produce really big displays.

Flynn was terrific in the air last weekend and Conroy has been in great form for the last three outings. At least if those two men win their area of the field, it will give Galway a foothold to build on. If Cork do well around there, they have the forwards to do some serious damage to most defences.

Other key men that must stand up big time, if Galway are going to upset the odds, include Seán Armstrong, Finian Hanley, Gary O' Donnell, Gary Sice, Danny Cummins, Michael Meehan, and Johnny Duane.

Galway team selector Donal Ó Fatharta is realistic about the challenge that faces the team on Saturday.

"Cork are a Division One team and they are one of the top sides in the country,” he said. “Saturday will be a very big step up on what we have faced in our last three games, but the lads are really looking forward to the game and it will be good to test ourselves against a top side to see where we are."

Galway have no real injury worries and are due to select their starting 15 tonight (Thursday ) after training. However, after their impressive victory over Armagh last Saturday, there are unlikely to be too many changes.

Ó Fatharta speaks highly of the hard work that the players have done and the commitment they have shown in the past eight or nine weeks since the heavy and demoralising defeat to Mayo on May 19.

"All the lads on the panel have done everything that has been asked of them in the past two months. They have really put their shoulder to the wheel and hopefully all that hard work will be reflected in our display this weekend."

Refusing to shy away from expectations, he concluded by saying: "There is a bit more confidence around after the few wins in the qualifiers and the mood is very positive in our camp. We will head up on Saturday morning to give it our best shot and hopefully we can build on last week's performance in Pearse Stadium. We are massive outsiders, but we are not bothered by that fact. Not too many expected us to beat Armagh either, so we will just focus on producing the best performance we can, and see where that takes us."

One positive for Galway is that most of the team playing this Saturday have beaten Cork in U-21 championships over the past few years; in semi-finals in 2005 and 2011, and in the final this year.

So there should be a bit of belief that if all goes to plan they can do so again.

Cork fully deserve to be hot favourites for this joust, just the same as Donegal totally deserved to be last weekend in the Ulster final too.


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