Footballers head into the lions' den for league final

This Sunday the Galway senior footballers take on All-Ireland champions Dublin in Croke Park in the Allianz Football League division one final (4pm ).

A rare treat for Dublin and Galway to meet in national finals, it is 51 years since they last clashed in a league final - that was back in 1967.

Galway beat Dublin by 0-12 to 1-7 in the 1967 ‘home’ final before losing the full final to New York over two legs in Gaelic Park.

The last championship match between Galway and Dublin was the infamous 1983 All-Ireland which Dublin won by two points.

Those games are in the distant past now, and while Dublin are boiling hot favourites to win this weekend, Galway are currently enjoying a good run of form. Unbeaten in the 2018 league, their produced their latest win last Sunday in Newbridge over Kildare, winning by 0-16 to 0-10.

Players rested

Galway rested a good few players in that tie, such as team captain Damien Comer, Peter Cooke, Paul Conroy, free-taker Barry McHugh, and impressive corner back Eoghan Kerin.

No doubt those guys will be keen to get back into competitive action this weekend.

It is Galway's first division one final since 2006 when they lost to Kerry, whereas three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin are in the division one final for a sixth successive year, having won four-in-a-row in 2013-2016, before losing out narrowly to Kerry this time last year.

Jim Gavin's men suffered a rare league defeat last weekend when they went down to Monaghan at headquarters, but they too were without some key men with the most important absentee being the incomparable Stephen Cluxton, who has been by far their most influential player over the past decade. They are a far superior side when their captain is between the sticks and his restarts are usually of a superb standard.

Galway team manager Kevin Walsh is hoping his side can produce a performance of which they can be proud, and the management team will be looking to their improved defensive structure to hold firm despite coming up against a forward unit that has been the most impressive in Ireland over the past three years.

Dublin, however, are not the team they were last September when they defeated Mayo by 1-17 to 1-16 to win their hat-trick of titles.

This weekend they are shorn of such high quality players as Cian O'Sullivan, Jack McCaffrey and Bernard Brogan (all long term injuries ).

Diarmuid Connolly has not togged out in the league yet and there is a lot of speculation whether he will even back for the upcoming championship.

It will be interesting to see if Cuala star Con O'Callaghan will be available for selection this weekend either, or if corner forward Paul Mannion will be recovered from his recent injury.

Galway are 4/1 to win this weekend and are not expected by many outside of the county to beat the Dubs. But they are not without hope.

They have a fair bit of momentum behind them, and if they could be a bit more clinical in front of goal, then they could rattle the Dublin rearguard.

Players such as Damien Comer, Eamonn Brannigan and Seán Kelly have really impressed up front during the league, and hopefully Shane Walsh can have a productive day.

Nobody could doubt Shane's innate talent, but sometimes he does not deliver consistently, and that needs to change if he is going to become a really serious inter-county forward.

Defensively Galway will look to Johnny Heaney, Gareth Bradshaw and Eoghan Kerin to keep the blue hordes out, and Ciarán Kilkenny needs to be man-marked and kept quiet.

For Galway to win, Paul Conroy and Peter Cooke will have to do really well around the middle and nullify the influence of Brian Fenton in particular. If they do that and supply is provided to Galway's speed merchants, then who knows what could happen?

The game is preceded by Roscommon and Cavan in the Division Two final (2pm ).


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