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Preview AI Replay: Galway v Kilkenny   28/09/2012

From the official www.gaa.ie website

After all the excitement of three weeks ago, it's time for the replays of the minor and senior GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship finals to light up Croke Park once more.

The country will come to a standstill at 3.30pm when Galway take on Kilkenny in the senior final replay, with the pair having fought out a thrilling draw back on September 9.

Joe Canning's late free secured the replay for Galway that day, with the Tribesmen having looked set for defeat minutes earlier when Henry Shefflin stepped up to take a penalty. The Cats legend took his point though, and Galway got the chance to equalise shortly after.

If this Sunday's contest is anything like that clash, another sensational feast for hurling fans is in store. Once again, Kilkenny are chasing a special place in history. If they win, Henry Shefflin will win his ninth All-Ireland medal, and would become the first man in either Gaelic football or hurling to do so on the field of play.

Before that though, there is the minor final replay at 1.15pm when Munster champions Tipperary take on Leinster kingpins Dublin.
The sides finished level at the end of a high quality contest three weeks ago, with two late Paul Winters frees for Dublin bringing them back into the game.
Tipperary's last title at the grade came in 2007 when they defeated Galway, while Dublin have to go all the way back to 1965 for their last triumph - a gap of 47 years.

Sunday, September 30
GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay
Kilkenny v Galway, Croke Park, 3.30pm

Here we go again then. Three weeks on from Kilkenny and Galway's compelling duel in the All-Ireland hurling final, it's time for them to do battle again for the Liam MacCarthy Cup in the replay.

What a game that was back on September 9. The tension around Croke Park in the final few minutes was remarkable, and the fact that it was the first All-Ireland hurling final to finish in a draw since the 1959 meeting of Kilkenny and Waterford says everything about how unusually close a contest it was.

There is so much to look back on from that game that it's not easy to know where to begin. Galway's spectacular start, not entirely dissimilar to the one the stunned Kilkenny in the Leinster final, helped them into an early lead. Joe Canning's marvellous goal befitted the occasion and the man, and Anthony Cunningham's side were good value for their seven point lead when the score was 1-8 to 0-4.

But this was a different Kilkenny team to the one wounded back in the Leinster decider. Led by Henry Shefflin, seeking his ninth All-Ireland medal but playing as if he was starving for his first, they got back into the game and were a point ahead with little more than 15 minutes to go.

Niall Burke's goal brought Galway back into it but the trophy seemed destined for Kilkenny when Shefflin stepped up to that penalty late on. Much comment has passed since about his decision to take a point rather than go for a goal, but as far as he will be concerned, that is all history now. As is Joe Canning's equalising free, so nervelessly drilled over the bar considering he had missed an earlier chance.

Where does all the parsing of what happened the last day leave us? It's hard to know. The All-Ireland football final on September 23 took some of the attention off the hurling replay for a while, and there already was a strange sense of limbo in the minutes and days after the sides finished level in the first game.

That was understandable, given all the build-up to the first game and all the energy expended on the occasion itself. But now, the attention is firmly focused on this Sunday's encounter, and what kind of contest lies ahead.

This is the third championship meeting of Galway and Kilkenny this season, so by this stage, the two sides should know each other very well. Having stood face to face with Kilkenny twice now and not yet blinked, Anthony Cunningham's Galway side will be hoping that they still have what it takes to go the distance with the side commonly revered as the greatest of all time.

Much has been made of Kilkenny's man marking strategies the last day, and how it limited the scoring exploits of the Galway forwards, with only two of them scoring from play. The flip side of it was that it in turn limited the normal games of some of the Kilkenny defenders, with their attentions more focused on following their men rather than playing their own game at times.

Whatever about the tactical nuances of the game, there is clearly not a whole lot between the teams and another very tight game is likely to be in store. Before the first game, a lot of the attention was on the two leading stars of both teams, Shefflin and Canning. Little has changed in that sense for the replay, as once again, those two talismen are expected to be the ones who will hold the key for their counties.

Both were at the heart of proceedings throughout the last day, and one or the other seemed to be involved in every major moment in the game, so clearly there is good reason to believe that once again they will be two of the most influential players on show.

Since the final whistle went the last day, the heat has gradually been turned up on this clash. In the immediate aftermath of the game, there was a minor argument between the respective managers on the sideline, Anthony Cunningham and Brian Cody, while some of Canning's comments in the week after the game about Shefflin were interpreted by some sections of the media as being evidence of major tension between the teams.

Whatever about that, Sunday's game will feature two teams that have spent the guts of the last two months thinking almost exclusively about the other, so at this stage, all they will want to do is remove the other from their line of vision in the pursuit of the All-Ireland.

As for team news, there is some speculation that defender John Tennyson will start in midfield for Kilkenny on Sunday, with Michael Rice still obviously out injured. Richie Hogan played there alongside Michael Fennelly the last day in place of Rice, but it is unclear whether he will start there again on Sunday. Meanwhile, Galway are likely to name the same team again that started the last day.

Speaking to GAA.ie ahead of the game, Kilkenny boss Brian Cody emphasised how tight he expected the game to be again.

"The replay has the makings of a terrific game again. The last day obviously was very, very tense. A very close game. It could have gone either way. They were certainly on top in the first half (the first day), and we got better in the second half, and the final outcome was a draw. So look, there's obviously nothing between the two teams."

For Galway boss Cunningham, he told GAA.ie that the game would come down to the finest of margins.

"We have a tremendous chance but it's down to who imposes themselves and who has the nerve to take it across the line. It's that finely balanced. You've seen the last day, there was nothing in the game. It ebbed and flowed and it's really whoever wants it that fraction more, and I repeat the word fraction. That's who will win."

Kilkenny: TBC

Galway: TBC

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