All-Ireland Under 21 Hurling Semi-Final Previews

Class act Canning should lead Galway to U21 decider against Tipperary

By Conor McKeon

http://www.herald.ie/sport/hurling/class-act-canning-should-lead-galway-to-u21-decider-against-tipperary-1461317.html

Friday August 22 2008

ALL-IRELAND U21 HC SEMI-FINALS

Galway v Kilkenny

(Thurles, Tomorrow, 2.30, Live TG4)

NO matter how impressive Michael Walsh’s Kilkenny team were in conquering Dublin and Offaly en route to reclaiming the Leinster title, all eyes will be on Joe Canning here.

That’s simply the way it is and the way it will be for quite some time on every occasion he takes the field.

With Galway emerging cold from a lack of provincial action, it’s surely the biggest comfort of all to know that Canning has the beating of whichever marker comes his way. The trick, of course, for Kilkenny is to try and minimise his impact.

Dublin put a huge onus on trying to nullify Canning’s effectiveness in last year’s All-Ireland showpiece but Galway, laden with scoring talent, simply used him as a decoy for most of the match and let the rest of a rampant inside forward line do all the damage.

Forwards like Kevin Hynes and Kerril Wade are no longer around however and Canning will be entrusted with taking up much more of the scoring burden than he did last year.

RUSTY

In their opening game against Cork in the 2007 semi-final, Galway looked understandably rusty against a Rebel side who have come through a tough provincial draw.

Then, in extra time, they put in an awesome performance and pummeled Cork’s challenge into the ground.

Kilkenny might not be so forgiving of a sluggish start, however.

Pat Hogan and Ciarán Fennelly are two players with serious prospects over the coming years and in Richie Hogan and TJ Reid, Kilkenny possess two of the most exciting underage forwards in the game.

They amassed 1-9 from play against Offaly in Tullamore and if a tight reign isn’t kept on both, Kilkenny may shoot off into the distance from an early start.

Still, Offaly’s most dangerous forward that day was Joe Bergin. He scored 2-1 and the Cats didn’t seem to have the answers to how to stop his aerial prowess.

If senior star Canning gets that same quality of ball, Galway should progress.

ODDS: Galway 8/11, Draw 9/1, Kilkenny 5/4

VERDICT: Galway

TIPPERARY v DERRY

(Mullingar, Tomorrow, 2.30)

TIPPERARY are certainly the luckiest of the semi-finalists. As Seamus Hennessy went up to collect the Munster title in Cusack Park Ennis, even he must have felt some sense that they were steeped to be collecting the trophy.

The rights and wrongs of that late, controversial decision will surely be teased out over the coming months in a Munster Council investigation but Tipperary will worry themselves about what happened out the field.

Backboned by two successive All-Ireland winning minor teams, there was great things expected of this Tipp team but they almost came unstuck against Clare – a team who have never tasted provincial glory at the grade. In attack, there was much to admire about Tipp – not least Callinan, who scored 1-5 from play. Pa Bourke gives them a big, physical presence at full-forward too.

Clare kept knifing through their core, though and the Premier rearguard looked ill at ease when truly tested in the air. On the bright side, they’re unlikely to get another such test of their mettle until the final. Derry have now put back-to-back Ulster titles together but they’re no nearer bridging the gap between Northern hurling and the big guns than Antrim are at senior level.

They were well beaten in last year’s semi-final by Dublin and a similar fate is sure to befell them here.

ODDS: Tipperary 1/100, Draw 20/1, Derry 14/1

VERDICT: Tipperary

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