League champions Galway can finally find pot of gold
To win the All-Ireland you need the three Ss – strength, speed and skill. I firmly believe Galway possess all three after watching them up close in the Division 1 league final and I fancy them to complete the double in 2017.
I was on duty for RTE Radio 1 at the Gaelic Grounds for that league final and I couldn’t get over the size of the Galway team. There were all giants.
Now I know President Higgins is not the tallest man in Ireland but the Tribesmen made him look as small as I have ever seen him as they shook his hand.
Galway bullied Tipperary that day. They had too much power and swept them aside with a dazzling display. They were full value for the big winning margin. I had been impressed with them prior to that in any highlight reels in which I caught a glimpse of them but they were so much better up close.
Long before a sliotar was pucked in that final I fancied Galway to win Leinster and, while all the fancy prices have been snapped up, I still think there is value in backing them to come out on top in the province.
If Galway come through Leinster unscathed, which I fully expect them to do, their confidence will be sky-high heading into an All-Ireland semi-final on the back of league and provincial silverware.
Joe Canning had a cracking league campaign and 10-1 about him being crowned Hurler of the Year is very tempting. He has yet to win the award but this is arguably the best Galway side he has played in and this could be his best chance yet.
Galway are most certainly the team to beat in Leinster as you have to fear for Kilkenny. They will need both TJ Reid and Richie Hogan to stay fit and Brian Cody will need to sort out the full-back position.
Dublin are still missing Danny Sutcliffe and some of their Cuala contingent so asking them to trump the Tribesmen in a Leinster quarter-final at O’Connor Park is a bit much. It’s most definitely Galway in Leinster for me and I think that is the best wager on the hurling coupon this summer.
It is hard to believe that defending champions Tipperary are 13-8 to win the All-Ireland yet you can still back them at 11-10 to win Munster. That tells you just how competitive the provincial race is down south.
Tipperary have a tough path through Munster. Cork are a potential banana skin first of all and they will have to face Waterford and probably Clare in the provincial decider. Coming out on top in those three tussles will not be easy and I would much rather be on Waterford to win Munster.
I know they are my home county and I have enjoyed some great days with them but I am convinced that Waterford are coming to the boil nicely and if they can get over Tipperary in a Munster semi-final they will take some stopping.
If Waterford are to have a successful summer, Jamie Barron will be a key cog in the machine. He is a hugely-talented hurdler who is paramount to this Waterford team and I envisage him making plenty of headlines over the coming months. Indeed, backing him at a massive price for Hurler of the Year would not be the worst bet in the world.
My prediction is that you will see Waterford and Clare contesting the Munster final. The Banner boys ought to have the measure of Limerick and they are dark horses this year. There aren’t many shouting about Clare or tipping them for All-Ireland glory but they have the potential to have a big say. If it is a Waterford v Clare final, I would still hope that our boys have enough to come out on top.
As for the pot of gold, I think Galway could find it. This might just be the year of the Tribesmen.
Galway to win All-Ireland SHC
1pt 4-1 bet365, Betway, Hills
Galway to win Leinster
3pts 11-8 general
Waterford to win Munster
1pt 4-1 BoyleSports
Joe Canning Hurler of the Year
1pt 10-1 Paddy Power
Jamie Barron Hurler of the Year
0.5pt 80-1 BoyleSports