Ollie Canning: Leinster title important for Galway
Since their provincial win in 2012, Galway have come up empty handed in the All-Ireland series13:00 Friday 14 April 2017, 13:00 14 Apr 2017
There's no show like a Joe Show and there's very few who can rival Galway forward Joe Canning on his day.
The trouble, writes Shane Stapleton, is finding the supporting cast to help the Tribesmen unlock their potential and push for All-Ireland glory once again.
It was only 2015 the last time Galway reached an All-Ireland final and that day they let a three-point half-time lead slip against Kilkenny. Brian Cody once again got the better of the Westerners.
It would not be the last.
The exit of Anthony Cunningham in November of that year came after a vote of no confidence in the manager and it appeared the Galway hurlers might get to the root cause of their shortcomings since their Leinster title victory in 2012.
Last year, the Tribesmen again held a half-time lead against the Cats in the Leinster final. It seemed that victory here would be the springboard they needed to launch themselves into the All-Ireland series.
Yet again their mental fragility was evident and they fell away in the second half. A narrow defeat to eventual All-Ireland champions Tipperary in the semi-final ended their season and with nothing to show.
Another summer fell away. Under Micheál Donoghue they continue to search for their missing piece.
"It can take its toll on a team," says former Galway hurler Ollie Canning.
"If you’re losing games by a point or two points for the last number of years, that can hit your confidence. That’s why there has been such an emphasis on the league this year."
That emphasis has led them to the semi-final of the league this weekend, where they'll take on Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds.
Victory in the league might not count for an awful lot, but defeat could set the team back quite a bit. Defeat to their Munster counterparts isn't the an ideal platform on which to build their challenge for an All-Ireland title.
Galway lack All-Ireland success in recent years which allows other teams some slack when developing their panels. This is something Kilkenny can point to to excuse their poor form in the league this year.
When it comes down to it, the Cats have produced on the big occasions.
"I think you have to gauge your run in the Championship and I know [Galway] are going out to win every game. If they didn’t win a Leinster Championship this year there may be some damage done to their confidence.
"It would be a good boost and I do think it would be important, but I wouldn’t say it’s imperative."
Galway's Daithi Burke dejected after defeat to Tipperary in last summer's All-Ireland hurling semi-final. Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson
The landscape is shifting for this year's All-Ireland series. Waterford don't appear to pose the same threat that they did this time last year and champions Tipperary look set to defend their All-Ireland title.
Davy Fitzgerald has breathed new life into Wexford hurling and after their win against a Kilkenny side in transition, there is an opportunity for Galway to make their mark in hurling's showpiece this summer.
"People won't be happy just winning a Leinster and coming up short at a semi-final stage. They need to aim to get back into the All-Ireland final this year. That should be their number one goal."
Their ability to handle occasions has been questioned and performing consistently at the top stage is another criticism levelled against the Westerners.
"People are looking for Galway to put in a good performance against Limerick and be able to perform consistently in a league final. To go into the Championship, you have to be performing consistently.
"My main concern would be that Galway would have to produce consistent performances. If you have a consistent performance and you get beaten by a better team, that’s better than beating a weaker team and not having the fundamental skills up to scratch."
Galway meet the Limerick this weekend at the Gaelic Grounds at 2pm.
The very best bits delivered every weekSubscribe now