They have plenty of lessons to learn, but Tribe have the tools to see off Clare at second attempt
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final replay: Galway v Clare (tomorrow, 2pm, Semple Stadium, live on RTE2 & Sky Sports Arena)
WILL it be Aliens, or will it be Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles? Godfather II or Caddyshack II?
There’s something special about a sequel that outstrips a brilliant original but, after last weekend’s clinker in Croke Park, it is surely too much to expect Galway and Clare to serve up another modern-day classic in Thurles tomorrow.
Supporters the length and breadth of the country are still catching their breath after a helter-skelter 48 hours which showcased everything good about the caman code, the cherry on the cake of a Championship summer to stand comparison with any other.
Yet as they dragged their weary limbs off the sodden field at around 7.30pm last Saturday night following 94 minutes of frenetic fare, it is unlikely their contribution to a game for the ages was foremost in the thoughts of either group of players.
Both could legitimately have cursed the one that got away, even though it was Clare who secured salvation so late in the game. But then both should also have been glad of another chance at reaching an All-Ireland final, such was the topsy-turvy nature of this encounter.
Liam MacCarthy Cup holders Galway, who had already lost Adrian Tuohey, Gearoid McInerney and Joe Canning to injury through the course of the game, found themselves behind for the first time after Aron Shanagher’s swivel and shot shook James Skehill’s net early in the second half of extra-time.
They showed the resolve of champions to recover from that hammer blow, but whether that trio recover before throw-in tomorrow afternoon could have a major bearing on their title ambitions.
News coming from the camp suggests Canning, who jarred a knee in extra-time, and Tuohey (back) should be okay, but there are real doubts about the chances of McInerney taking his familiar spot at centre-back.
The Oranmore colossus was forced off in the 53rd minute and left Croke Park with his right calf heavily strapped.
However, on the morning of last weekend’s drawn game, reports suggested full-back Daithi Burke was a serious doubt with an ankle injury. He played the full game, so smoke and mirrors can be expected right up until 2pm tomorrow.
Away from the treatment table, the big questions will be: who has learned most from the first game? And who can make the required adjustments to edge across the line?
It took 16 minutes for the Clare management team of Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney to address Galway’s utter dominance in the opening stages as a fumbling Banner full-back line was left brutally exposed against the might of the man-mountains in maroon.
The Galway goal was a perfect illustration of the panic in the Clare defence, with Patrick O’Connor brushed aside by Jonathan Glynn as he attempted to collect a loose ball, the sliothar eventually nudged towards Conor Cooney and he made no mistake from close-range.
By the time Colm Galvin was eventually shunted back to sweeper, with Tony Kelly dropping deep around midfield, Clare trailed 1-7 to 0-1.
Moloney joked that a nine point lead is nothing in hurling nowadays, but they should count themselves extremely lucky not to have been dead and buried by that stage as the Tribe spurned other half chances for goals.
Speaking after the game, forward John Conlon admitted the Banner had spoken about the possibility of finding themselves well behind early on, which makes it all the more odd that they decided to leave so much space for the Tribesmen in that early phase.
Galvin’s reassignment made all the difference. With him not only cutting out ball coming into the forwards, but also looking for the deep-lying Kelly at ever possible opportunity when in possession, Clare started to get a foothold in the game.
Conlon was largely starved of possession in the first half but, after drifting out around the half-forward line and pulling left and right, he began to edge his much-anticipated duel with Daithi Burke. That renewal will be one to savour.
Only in flashes did the Banner get their short-passing game working, but when they did they looked to have Galway’s number.
Once the route one option was removed, the Tribesmen seemed to run out of ideas. Considering how expertly they counter-acted sweeper systems last year, especially against Waterford in the All-Ireland final, it was strange that they were unable to adapt.
Asked about Galvin’s role in front of the Banner full-back line, Donoghue admitted his influence was a major concern that would need addressed.
“He got on a lot of ball and the way they used him was very good, on their puck-outs and stuff, so we’ll have to have a look at that,” said the Galway boss.
Aside from tactical changes, there could also be alterations in personnel on both sides, with men impressing from the bench last week. David Fitzgerald came in for the ineffective Cathal Malone in the Clare midfield after half-time and made a huge impact, while Ian Galvin also did well.
Podge Collins barely got a look in but is likely to keep his place, although Conor McGrath is breathing down his neck.
For Galway, Jason Flynn shone during his half hour cameo while Niall Burke could push Joe Cooney.
Both management teams will be well aware how close they came to falling through the trapdoor eight days earlier.
Clare are likely to start with the formation that worked so well, with Galvin dropping deep again, but Donoghue is sure to have spent the week devising ways to ensure his men are well equipped to circumnavigate the sweeper this time around.
Whether this sequel turns out to be Terminator II or not can only be judged after the event. Galway have plenty to fix, aside from their injury woes, and their opponents will be more familiar with the surroundings at Semple Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
But it’s hard top escape the feeling that, come the All-Ireland final on August 19, they’ll be back.