Top class hurlers can play in any weather, but scores may be a bit harder to come by in this winter version of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship. The fact that Galway were knocked out in the group stages last season makes me believe that they are on a mission to win it all this year.
The Tribesmen won it three seasons ago, lost the final by a point the year after and probably spent the last year mourning that defeat. People may argue that they’ve had their time in the sun, but I don’t agree.
Galway’s squad is full of big, physical men and they are well able to hurl too. They have a really tough opener to their Leinster Championship campaign against Wexford, the could lose that game and still come back through the back door to win the All-Ireland.
They’ve got Joe Canning back, which is key, and they’ve got bags of experience in the squad with players knocking in-and-around the age of 30. Meanwhile, their younger crop are now starting to mature nicely.
The knockout campaign after the provincial championships will suit them and there might just be a bit of value in backing Galway. I’ve even backed them with their footballers to double the double, believe it or not!
When I was hurling, I was a top of the ground operator and loved playing in the summer months. I didn’t like the winter conditions much and struggled a bit during the League campaigns in the February and March weather, which is effectively what players are facing into now.
So, this season may suit defenders more than attackers when you are looking to back a player to be Hurler of the Year. Even though I know a back hasn’t won the award since 2009 and that was the great Tommy Walsh.
I’m going to look away from the usual suspects, big names and clear favourites like Seamus Callanan, Joe Canning and Patrick Horgan. Someone like Kilkenny’s Padraig Walsh at a nice outside price appeals to me. Kilkenny should be right in the mix for who is going to claim Liam MacCarthy and I fancy them to at least make the semi-final stages, that means Walsh should give you a run for your money.
Padraic Mannion of Galway, another defender, is also one who offers a bit of value in this market. As I said above, I fancy The Tribesmen to be in right in the All-Ireland mix this season and they will need Mannion on top form to bring the cup back across the Shannon this year. He should have won the prize two years ago, so I’m going to stick my neck on the line and go for Mannion to take the award overall.
* All odds correct at time of first publishing but may change. Prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget.
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