Last Seen: The 2004 Wexford V Offaly final after the Yellowbellies shocked Kilkenny in the last few minutes of the Semi Final.
Reward: A possible Leinster Championship if Kilkenny are caught off-guard, or even a sliver of hope for hurling folk in other parts of the country if somebody manages to run them close.
While yesterday’s Semi-Final draw threw up two potential crackers, with Wexford facing Dublin, and Kilkenny facing Leinster newbies Galway, the likelihood of the Cats not claiming their 11th Leinster Championship in twelve years is pretty, pretty slim. So slim, in fact, that the good burgers at a renowned bookies chain have Kilkenny at 1/4, Galway 4/1, Wexford at 10/1 and Dublin 16/1.
However, anything can happen on any given Sunday. Galway are something of an oddity in Leinster, and previous years would have had them at this time of the year preparing for a Connaught Final against Roscommon, or awaiting life straight into the qualifiers. Their league form this year was somewhat average, but do remember that they had their Portumna contingent out until after March 17th on club duty. Also, perhaps new manager John McIntyre didn’t put as much emphasis on the league as previous regimes, given that they actually had a provincial championship ahead of them.
Nonetheless, there isn’t a lot that the Tribesmen could have learned from their inaugural Leinster drubbing of Laois by 27 points. In all fairness, Kilkenny’s last game, the League Final against Tipp, was played at more of a Championship pace than the Laois game. Actually, scratch that; a game of tiddlywinks between Tipp and Kilkenny would have been more at Championship pace than that game. However, they must be pleased that Niall Healy and Damien Hayes showed up and took some of the scoring burden off Joe Canning’s big shoulders.
Galway rely hugely on Canning, obviously so given his immense natural talent, but like Tipperary with Eoin Kelly for many years, there may not be sufficient quality in the supporting cast. No better way to find out than a Championship game against Kilkenny, and if Noel Hickey is fit, his battle with Canning could possibly be one of the most intriguing contests of not just the year, but the decade.
On the other side, Dublin eased past Antrim yesterday by ten points, but some wayward shooting led to seventeen wides. Anthony Daly really seems to have Dublin believing in themselves this year, and their fantastic league performances need to translate into a big championship performance. Dublin have some nippy, good scoring forwards like David O’Callaghan and midfielder Alan McCrabbe is something of a talisman also. They ran Wexford, who have the hulking Stephen Banville (pictured) in their ranks, close last year and could just do enough this time around to make a Leinster Final.
The two games take place on the weekend of the 20th and 21st of June, and after a decade of Munster Championships where it seemed just about anybody could win it, we may finally get a few classic Leinster games.