This was exactly the start Galway craved for life in Leinster at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
A 27 point success achieved with an efficient performance ensured Galway advanced to the penultimate round of the provincial championship with the minimum of fuss.
From an early stage in the contest it was apparent that Galway were in the groove, and that the margin of victory was all that needed to be decided. Galway’s inside line of Damien Hayes, Joe Canning, and Niall Healy were in ruthless form all grabbing goals and providing moments of admirable quality.
Healy’s hat-trick was one of the main post match discussion topics along with the three first half red cards which saw Laois’ James Young and Michael McEvoy and Galway’s Kevin Hayes dismissed. Galway manager John McIntyre was satisfied with how his team embraced the challenge. “ "Everybody's saying Galway should be inspired by the experience of coming into Leinster but I think it works the other way as well, and for the first 20 minutes Laois left their league form way behind and really put it up to us.
“We did what we had to do on the day. It was important to us to experience some familiarity with playing in Leinster. Because we didn’t know what was coming down the tracks. Laois really put it up to us the first 20 minutes, didn’t stand on ceremony.
“But we’re over the first hurdle. Job accomplished. Nothing more, nothing less. Our entire focus was on this game but we have to make sure we bring out the necessary improvement in the next three weeks before we can talk about winning that match.”
McIntyre also stressed that his prolific forward unit wouldn’t enjoy such time and space again when the intensity levels increase against higher calibre opponents. “They were ok, but you have to consider as well what they were up against. It was a bit surreal in the second half, 14 against 13, and in fairness to Laois, they tried to the very end. They are a potentially devastating full-forward line. But they’ll be coming up against stronger teams, with better backs. And they’re not going to have the space they got today.
“But Laois were playing a tough, hard brand of hurling, which is their tradition. But our lads wanted to make a statement too, that they were going to stand up and defend themselves.”
Now Galway’s thoughts turn to Sunday’s semi-final draw. There is a belief that Galway may avoid Kilkenny, but McIntyre laughed off the notion. “I knew that question would be coming. We always have the conspiracy theorists out there, who love the bit of controversy. But whoever we have to play we have to play, that’s the bottom line. Picking and choosing doesn’t work at this level, because whoever comes down the tracks, we’ll have to be ready for.”
Galway : C Callanan; D Joyce, S Kavanagh, F Moore; A Cullinane, J Lee, E Lynch; K Hynes (0-4 ), A Smith (0-1 ); A Callanan (0-3 ) , K Hayes, C Donnellan (0-3 ); D Hayes (1-3 ), J Canning (1-10, 6fs ), N Healy (3-5, 1fs, 165 ). Subs : D McClearn for Kavanagh (half-time ), B Costelloe for Lee (45 mins ), D Tierney for D Hayes (55 mins ), M Ryan for Lee (57 mins ), J Gantley for Canning (58 mins ).
Laois: T Doran; D Maher, J A Delaney, B Stapleton; M Whelan, B Campion (0-5, 3fs ) , M McEvoy; J Young (0-4, all frees ), J Walsh; D Peacock, W Hyland (0-6, 3fs ), O Holohan (0-2 ) ; J Purcell, J Rowney, E Jackman. Subs: S Dwyer for Peacock (half time ), K Fitzpatrick for Stapleton (46 mins ), R Young for Purcell (54 mins ), C Delaney for Rowney (65 mins ).
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly ).