How they perform against the current All-Ireland champions will tell us a lot about the real progress being made under Liam Sammon, and a win, especially up there, would do wonders for team morale and put the team in a good position going into a month with four consecutive games.
While there was much to be enjoyed and admired about the team’s display in the recent win over Dublin, some questions still exist about how the side will cope with a step up in class. And a few answers will be provided by 9pm on Saturday.
The Galway team was to be announced last night (Wednesday ), but there is unlikely to be too many changes from the side that defeated Dublin.
Barry Cullinane is back from suspension and he is a live option to come into the midfield alongside Joe Bergin. Cullinane’s power, height, and aerial ability would cause trouble against a Tyrone midfield that are not overly tall. However they are very mobile, with Enda McGinley in particular well capable of breaking forward, creating, and taking scores.
Nicky Joyce is also back from the injury he sustained against Westmeath and his return is a big plus. He too could come straight back into the starting fifteen.
Both Damien and Alan Burke from Corofin are back training with Galway, and while they are unlikely to see much action this weekend, they provide defensive cover for both the corner back and wing-back positions.
Tyrone will be without some top players for this tie and definitely out this weekend are All-Star wing-back Philip Jordan (holidays ), big Joe McMahon (injured ), free-scoring Stephen O’Neill (injured ), Brian Dooher (injured ), and the suspended Ryan McMenamin which are all positives for Galway. Each of those men is a very fine player and their unavailability weakens Mickey Harte’s hand.
The two key forward players that Galway must curtail if they are to collect two points on their trip north are Sean Cavanagh and Owen Mulligan.
Cavanagh is a magnificent player, and if he is given space and time, he will destroy any opposition – just ask Kerry – so he must be stopped and shadowed at every turn.
It is unrealistic to expect any individual player to nullify Cavanagh completely so each Galway defender and midfielder must be prepared to do some quality harrying and chasing back when required to stop him.
If Cavanagh could be dispossessed a few times, it would frustrate his teammates and the home crowd. And with Dooher, who is one of their main leaders, out, Galway’s ability to stop Cavanagh would go a long way to springing a surprise.
Whoever is marking Owen Mulligan must also get very tight and physical with him. He can get frustrated with himself easily enough and I have seen him yellow carded and sent off on occasion when things are not going his way.
Of course the opposite is true too, and when he is on form, he can really fillet a full-back line. Remember his wonder goal against Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final replay in 2005? For the record he scored 1-07 in that game.
A key battle from a Galway perspective will be Michael Meehan against Conor Gormley. Meehan has been in great scoring form, and if he can do damage on the edge of the square, then Galway will be in with a great chance of victory. Gormley has an inclination to foul his man, and if Michael runs at him and takes him on as Conor Mortimer did last year, then scorable frees should flow.
Tyrone are expected to come through this with home advantage, but if Galway can continue in the same vein as they did in the first half against Dublin in Pearse stadium, they have nothing to fear.
Kerry went up to Omagh and scored two goals and beat them, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Galway can do likewise.