Kilkenny and Galway meet at Croke Park this Sunday in the final of the Leinster SHC, throw in 4pm.
Galway are rebuilding with a young team and will travel with cautious optimism.
In their last outing against Offaly, Galway played some excellent hurling and their forwards are really beginning to click and play as a unit. Their winning total of 5:23 was very impressive. On the debit side the defence looks very porous. They conceded 3:15 against Offaly, and if they want to stay competitive on Sunday they must eliminate the basic errors. The Kilkenny forwards will ruthlessly punish any slips. David Collins is back to full fitness and his return will be a big boost to the Galway backline.
Kilkenny enter this game fresh from their 18 point demolition of Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. They went in to the Dublin game missing some key players, but the strength of their squad was evident yet again, and they carried on regardless. Playing to their usual high standards they killed off the game as a contest before the half time whistle. Galway must avoid conceding early goals and attempt to stay in the game for as long as possible.
The Kilkenny defence is imperious in the air. JJ Delaney, Brian Hogan and Tommy Walsh form the best half back line in hurling, and they provide their full back line with excellent cover. (Against Dublin JJ Delaney deputised at full back for Noel Hickey and Richie Doyle slotted into the half back line with impressive ease). They concede very few goals as a result.
Galway will have to utilise their pace to stretch the Kilkenny defence if they are to score the goals that will make this tie competitive. They now have several scoring threats up front. Joe Canning, David Burke, Damien Hayes and Cyril Donellann are all in great form of late.
Galway are a coming team, but Kilkenny have already arrived and they have class and experience right throughout their side. Galway have enough scoring power to keep this game reasonably close, but they will ultimately come up short.
Kilkenny: D Herity; P Murphy, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, R Doyle; C Buckley, P Hogan; H Shefflin, TJ Reid, E Larkin, C Fennelly, R Power, R Hogan.
Galway: J Skehill; D Collins, K Hynes, F Moore; N Donoghue, T Regan, J Coen; I Tannian, A Smyth; D Burke, N Burke, C Donnellan; C Cooney, J Canning, D Hayes.