Galway and Kilkenny face off this weekend in the first ever Leinster championship fixture to be held in Pearse Stadium. The Tribesmen will aim to beat Cody’s Cats for the first time since becoming All-Ireland champions last year, while Kilkenny have been a major bogey team for Míchael O’Donohue’s men over the years. Here’s a few talking points as both aim to go two wins from two in the Leinster championship.
Pearse Stadium effect
Galway’s first home game ever in the Leinster Championship was sure to attract a large crowd but the opposition they face and the promise of warm weather means that Pearse Stadium will be near to full capacity.
Galway have long sought home fixtures and they will be keen to start with a victory. The pitch was not used for last weekend’s club football games, and with Ed Sheeran still echoing through the stands Galway will want to put their own tune to events on the field and turn Pearse Stadium into a cauldron of fire against Kilkenny.
Kilkenny and Galway have faced each other 42 times and it is very much advantage Kilkenny as they have won 31 of those encounters with Galway winning nine alongside two draws.
The Cats are unbeaten in their last seven championship games against Galway and their last defeat to the old foes were back in 2012 in the Leinster final. Galway have one win in their last twelve games against the black and amber. Can the Tribesmen pull one over on Kilkenny or will Cody mastermind more misery for Galway?
Reid v Canning
Two of the finest forwards in the country will go head to head when TJ Reid and Joe Canning line out for Kilkenny and Galway, respectively. Reid has grown into a leader in this young Kilkenny team and he will be hoping to win his 8th All-Ireland this year. He’s developed into perhaps the best hurler in the country, with all action displays and laser-accurate free-taking.
Canning is the reigning hurler of the year and Galway’s all-time top scorer, not to mention the talisman which led his team to glory last year. The two players’ performances will go a long way to deciding which team comes out on top on Sunday.
Acid Test for Kilkenny’s young guns
Kilkenny surprised many by winning the league this year. On Sunday they come up against the team who hold the other two titles that they covet: the Leinster Championship and the Liam McCarthy.
Brian Cody gave seven championship debuts against the Dubs in the opening round but it was his bench that proved the difference as Liam Blanchfield scored the decisive goal while Paul Murphy, Colin Fennelly and Conor Fogarty all made a difference.
Their younger players will need to step up their game as they will face a step up in class on Sunday against the Tribesmen, who boast a huge amount of experience and class in their ranks. It will be their most defining test yet this year.
Another reason why this game is so intriguing is the touchline battle between Míchael O’Donohue and Brian Cody. O’Donohue has gone head to head with Cody twice and both times Kilkenny have emerged victorious – Kilkenny won the league clash in 2016 (0-21 to 1-14) and the Leinster final (1-26 to 0-22).
O’Donohue will need to decide who will mark TJ Reid and he will need to get his match-ups correct as the Cats have scored goals in their last four league and championship games. Cody meanwhile will need to devise a plan to stop Joe Canning and company from racking up a large score. It promises to be a fascinating battle.
Galway man and columnist for GAA Wrap.