“You’re against an absolute superstar” | Gillane and Whelan the keys to this Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final | Jonathan Higgins

On opposite sides of the field this Saturday, superstars Conor Whelan and Aaron Gillane will each have a vital role to play for their team.

Galway native Jonathan Higgins has stressed the importance of the Tribesmen stopping Aaron Gillane if they are to have any chance of winning their All-Ireland semi-final this Saturday in Croke Park.

However Higgins also insisted that Limerick will have to be on their toes too, as Conor Whelan is just as potent in front of goal at the other end.

Gillane has been in outstanding form all year, with his best performance probably coming against Clare in the Munster final, where he shot 1-11 and picked up the Man of the Match award.

That performance saw Gillane shoot to the top of the Hurler of the Year betting as he looks to become the third Patrickswell man to win that award since 2021.

Galway boss Henry Shefflin will be racking his brains trying to come up with a solution to stop the sharpshooter, and speaking ahead on the latest episode of the Treaty Talk podcast, Higgins gave his opinion on who will take the Patrickswell native.

“He’s just such a dangerous player, since he’s come back in the scene this year it’s really so hard to know what way you go with it. With Gillane, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Padraic Mannion goes back and tags him, he has the pace, it’s probably not the worse matchup in the world.

“The only thing is it does take away a good bit from the attacking prowess of the half-backline, that’s a huge balancing act, but you’re against an absolute superstar, an absolute wizard in Gillane, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Padraic Mannion goes back on him.”

Jonathan Higgins
11 June 2023; Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the Munster GAA Hurling GAA Championship Final match between Clare and Limerick at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

While Gillane looks set to be the star of the show at one end, Galway possess a potent weapon of their own in their forward unit in Whelan, who Higgins described as “crucial” to any hopes the Tribesmen have of getting over the line on Saturday.

The Kinvara man has come under some criticism this year, being labelled as a “one trick pony,” but the Galway faithful won’t mind if he continues to add to his scoring tally as he has plundered 7-15 from play so far this year.

Whelan was pretty much unstoppable in the quarter-final, taking Tipperary for 1-4, almost single handily dragging Galway past the Premier in the Gaelic Grounds.

Not only will tightly marking Whelan be key for Kiely’s men, but also stopping the supply of ball going into him will be half the battle. If Limerick can leave Whelan to feed on scraps, they are bound to be in the ascendency.

“It’s absolutely imperative for Galway to have any chance in the game, he is the guy who makes Galway tick, if Galway are to have any chance at all, he has to be on song, I can’t understand the criticism he has been getting, he is key for Galway.

“The flipside is, if you’re (John) Kiely, you are going, ‘how do I stop the supply going in to him?’

“He is so crucial to Galway.”

Jonathan Higgins
Conor Whelan gets past Mike Casey in the 2017 National Hurling League meeting between Limerick and Galway

It remains to be seen who picks up Whelan on Saturday, with Sean Finn the designated marker in each of their three most recent encounters.

In addition to that, Declan Hannon’s absence at centre-back will cause a reshuffle of the Limerick defence. That makes the job of Whelan’s assigned marker all the more difficult and even more important.

The performances of both Whelan and Gillane will no doubt be pivotal in deciding who wins in what promises to be a cracker of a game in Croke Park this weekend.

Watch the full preview with Jonathan Higgins below.

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