Hurlers expected to make winning start

The Galway senior hurlers start their quest to retain the Leinster Hurling Championship crown when they take on Offaly in Bord Na Mona O' Connor Park, Tullamore, on Saturday (7pm ).

This new round robin structure with Galway, Offaly, Dublin, Kilkenny and Wexford sees the top two teams contesting the Leinster final on the first Sunday in July.

Galway played Offaly in last year's Leinster semi-final and won comfortably by 0-33 to 1-11, with Joe Canning and Conor Whelan both doing well in the scoring stakes, notching 0-14 between them.

Micheal Donoghue's charges are 1/50 to win this weekend's clash with Offaly available at 12/1 to create what would be a massive shock in the GAA world.

Kevin Martin's team are plus 12 on the handicap betting, while Galway are minus 12, which indicates within reason where the bookies think the result will lie.

The Offaly captain is David King and they have some solid players in full-forward Shane Dooley, Joe Bergin, Seán Gardiner and Shane Kinsella.

In the league Galway looked like a team that was not overly concerned about whether they won promotion from 1B, and their disappointing second half fade-out against Wexford in Nowlan Park in those quarter-finals was hopefully the performance of a team that has more lofty ambitions for the coming months.

At their best last season, Galway were extremely strong, dominating teams in the air with Gearóid McInerney and Daithí Burke imperious in the centre of the maroon defence, and Pádriac Mannion also producing an outstanding season.

Up front the power and point-taking ability of All-Star Conor Cooney, Cathal Mannion, Joseph Cooney and Whelan and Canning also caught the eye, and more of the same will be required if they are keep the Liam MacCarthy west of the Shannon for another year.

There does not seem to be any hype ahead of this weekend's game, probably due to expectation that Galway will win with ease.

However, the arrival of Kilkenny and Brian Cody to Pearse Stadium in two weeks - Sunday May 27 - for Galway's second game is a fixture that already has Galway GAA people very excited.

The Cats face Dublin in Parnell Park this Sunday, and they will also have played Offaly by the time they hit Salthill, so the Galway management team and squad will be well aware of what to expect from the black and amber men.

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