If Galway beat Donegal on Saturday night they’ll have slayed three big Ulster guns in a row and might do what the hurlers did and switch provinces in the football next summer.
I remember vividly this match up back in 2003 when Galway were beaten in a replay in Castlebar. That was the beginning of the end for the 1998 and 2001 champions and Galway didn’t win another game outside Connacht until Alan Mulholland steadied the ship in 2013.
It’s been excellent progress since with a last 12 and a quarter-final spot achieved in the past two seasons. Some will see whatever happens at the weekend as bonus territory but Galway players and management know they need that big scalp of a proper Division 1 side to give them the belief they can sit at the top table again.
There is a line of symmetry with that 2003 clash but with the roles reversed. Donegal’s old brigade are showing signs of wear and tear and may be ready to step off stage with their All-Ireland medal in their pockets.
Galway on the other hand have blooded the youngsters, have a wonderful attacking line and confidence is high amongst the camp. Kevin Walsh has the template. Set up in a defensive mirror to frustrate Donegal and don’t allow them run through you on the counter-attack.
Donegal are struggling badly with injuries with Michael Murphy and Karl Lacey clearly not fully fit. There is also rumours of squad fall-out prior to the Ulster final. However despite all this the market looks wrong. I was bemused to see Donegal as short as 2/5 to beat Monaghan in Clones and am equally as confused to see Donegal at 2/5 to beat Galway in Croke Park. How can the betting markets rate them the same?
Donegal did look lethargic against Monaghan but don’t forget they only just failed to beat the Monaghan system (which is such a plagiarism of the Donegal system that Jim McGuinness should demand royalties).
Fifteen wides won’t be repeated by Donegal nor will Galway get another seven kickable frees in the first-half like against Derry. You can have faith Galway can raise it again or Donegal will struggle to lift themselves from the Ulster final defeat but they are big ifs and the market has overreacted to that.
Donegal are still six to seven points superior to Galway meaning the bookies line of three points on the handicap looks too low and Donegal -3 looks the value bet.
Another soft All-Ireland for the Kingdom?
I talked about making sure to capitalise on the outright market if Kerry or Donegal lost their provincial finals as they were due to meet in an All-Ireland semi-final if they both won.
People certainly listened as one major firm quoted Kerry at 7/2 that Sunday evening before plunging into 9/4 by the morning. Kerry have that side of the draw nearly to themselves with a practical bye in the quarters and potentially Monaghan in the semi-finals. Only Tyrone could be the fly in the ointment stopping them make the final again.
If Galway beat Donegal though Tyrone too will go to the tough side of the draw alongside Dublin and Mayo. That side looks like a minefield whilst the Kingdom will arrive practically fresh as daises come the middle of September.