Kilkenny will have to tread carefully when they travel to Tullamore to tackle the Tribesmen this weekend.
That’s the verdict of former Kilkenny senior hurler John Henderson, who believes Galway will offer a stiff challenge in Sunday’s Leinster senior hurling semi-final.
“It’s a much tougher ask than it looks on paper,” said the three-time All-Ireland winner.
“If the Galway team from the Leinster final two years ago show up, how will Kilkenny deal with it?”
The former All-Star winner was, of course, referring to the game in which Kilkenny were hot favourites going into the match, before being rocked by the unrelenting Western side.
“That’s the question, but I don’t think Galway know the answer themselves,” he said. “All they can do is keep putting their team out. I think they’re hoping to come in under the radar and catch Kilkenny.
“I remember a previous encounter against Galway in Tullamore which was a tricky assignment,” he added. “All I know is that Kilkenny were quite happy to get out of it.”
That day, the Tribesmen announced their arrival in Leinster with a daring display. They came up short, however, when a late flurry of Kilkenny scores saw the then All-Ireland champions safely home on a 2-20 to 3-13 scoreline.
Joe Canning’s performance had carried Galway close. Once again he will be the focal point of their attack on Sunday.
“It’s down to Galway where they play him, and how they play him,” Mr Henderson pointed out. “Galway will look at it in terms of where can they get the most out of him against Kilkenny on Sunday.
“That’s the burning question for Galway, how to get the most out of him.
“So far Canning hasn’t been setting the world on fire this year. I don’t know whether that’s a bad thing or a good thing.”
However, the Fenians man believes that whoever is tasked with the role of marking Canning will be up to the job.
“Brian Cody’s rationale would be that if you wear a Kilkenny jersey, you mark whoever you’re on,” he said. “You have to be good enough to do it, whether he be centre-field or corner-forward.”
While experienced players such as Henry Shefflin, Michael Rice and Richie Power have been hit by injury, Mr Henderson believes there are plenty of young guns ready to step in.
“A strong panel gives you quick options,” he said. “You can move someone in or out without worry.
“Kilkenny’s strength is that the majority of the players are experienced,” he added “The young players are blending well and if somebody is missing on the day, they’re ready to come in.”
Padraig Walsh is one such member of the Kilkenny panel who has shone this season.
“As with anyone who comes from a good line, the expectation is there,” he said of the Tullaroan man. “It’s not a surprise to people when he does perform, but the fact that he’s starting and keeping his brother Tommy out of the side does add a little bit of spice.”
Kilkenny are heading in the right direction, Henderson believes. Theirs is a winning formula.
“I can’t see Brian changing it (the team) around that much and I can’t see the reason for changing it,” he said. “If you’re winning, you don’t tend to make changes to the team.”