This weekend one of Tipperary and Galway will see their All-Ireland ambitions come to a premature end. Here are the three main talking points ahead of this pivotal clash.
1. Who is hungrier?
Both teams have much to lose. The losing manager’s head will roll. Should Tipperary lose, the public will turn on them. There has been frustration growing around the team, as they look for their first championship win since the 2012 Munster Final. Rumours of heavy drinking has not helped their cause.
Galway have not beaten anybody in the championship since 2012, apart from Laois. Anthony Cunningham’s side are now almost two years without one of those vintage Tribesmen performances. The question is, who has more to lose?
2. How important is Lar’s return?
The big news coming out of Thurles this week is that Lar Corbett is fit to start for the Premier. The return of the 2010 Hurler of the Year will provide a massive boost to his teammates, and still has the ability to cause the Galway defence real problems. He is the reason Kilkenny did not win seven All-Ireland titles in a row, and still the shining light for Tipperary.
Lar holds the experience necessary to lead the Premier forward line, but can Galway shut him out?
3. How will Galway rally?
This is the first time since 2011 that Galway have played in the qualifiers. At this stage, it is all about survival in the championship; hanging in there and gaining momentum. It is too early to start thinking about September.
Tipperary found out last year that due to the newfound competitive nature of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship, your summer can end quickly. Anthony Cunningham has a huge task to get his player’s minds right just a week after falling to Kilkenny. The Westerners were dreaming of a Leinster Final last week, and now find themselves two games away from the quarter-finals. It will take a lot to recover.
Verdict: We are spoiled with two giants meeting in knock-out hurling so early in the summer. The atmosphere in Semple Stadium will be electric, and home advantage might just tell. Tipperary by 5.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.