The Galway senior hurlers league campaign continues this Sunday as Micheál Donoghue’s men travel to Tullamore to take on an Offaly outfit whose slide down the hurling ranks appears to be gathering pace with every passing week.
Kevin Martin’s side is currently rooted to the bottom of division 1B after losing to by 3-17 to 2-16 away to Laois last weekend, while Galway cruised to a facile six-point win, 0-20 to 1-11, over a below-par Dublin side in Pearse Stadium.
On current form, it is hard to envisage anything other than a routine win for the Tribesmen again this weekend, as Offaly stumble from one crisis to another. Well aware a drop to division 2 would be catastrophic, they now rely on Laois doing them a favour this weekend when they take on Carlow.
With a place in the quarter-finals already assured, and no automatic promotion to consider, Donoghue will continue to assess the panel of players currently available to him.
“We brought in a lot of young players, and they are getting a lot of experience,” Donoghue says. “Hopefully in the long run that will stand us in good stead. In fairness to the lads, we have given them the chance and you have to run with them for a few games.”
One player whose immediate future in the maroon jersey is shrouded in uncertainty is Joseph Cooney, who is currently working in Australia, and Donoghue admitted it was not a done deal that the Sarsfields' man would be back for any of the 2019 campaign.
Galway and Dublin will lock horns again later in the summer in the final round robin game of the Leinster Championship in what will undoubtedly be a far more intense contest than last weekend’s, and new Dublin boss Mattie Kenny will have plenty to ponder after his young guns were swatted aside on this occasion by an experimental Galway outfit.
Granted, several of Kenny’s players had played plenty of Fitzgibbon Cup hurling in previous weeks, but they still looked well off the pace against a Galway side that dominated the physical exchanges and contained their opponents to just six scores from play.
The first of these was a goal against the run of play on 15 minutes by Danny Sutcliffe after the pacy Oisin O’Rorke had scorched Jason Grealish in the right corner. Within three minutes, though, Galway had cancelled that score with three points of their own through Seán Loftus, Niall Burke, and Aidan Harte.
They led then by 0-8 to 1-1 with the wind at their backs, and Joe Canning’s fourth successful free stretched the lead further. Canning was in the thick of the action in the middle third, falling foul of a wild stroke by Sutcliffe on 21 minutes that was lucky to be only deemed worthy of a caution.
Galway pressed on with Ronan Burke in decent form at full back and Grealish reacting well to his early setback, while Padraic Mannion covered acres of ground from number six and could be a viable option for that role later in the year despite the return of Gearóid McInerney who slotted in alongside him on the right wing.
The Galway management will not be looking to make too many drastic changes to their championship line-up this year, but tinkering will be required to improve their title ambitions.
In that regard, Cathal Mannion’s revelatory form at midfield provides options. The purity of his ball-striking from deep caught the eye again on countless occasions, as he notched the first of his four points on 30 minutes after good work by Kevin Hussey.
Galway went in six points up at the break, with Dublin already having made two changes to their forward line, and although Donal Burke, their third substitute, cut the margin within seconds of the restart, their was to be no stirring revival from the men in sky blue.
The hard-working Davy Glennon responded with a point for Galway before Canning landed another long range free, and the only moment of note where Dublin threatened to any extent in a mundane second period came when Fergal Flannery diverted O’Rorke’s low shot out for a ’65 on 48 minutes.
Flannery’s puck-out accuracy also looks set to make him the leader in the race for the goalkeeper’s jersey, but it was left to Cathal Mannion to keep this spectacle entertaining in the closing 15 minutes with three wonderful strikes from the left wing keeping the crowd engaged.
Galway: F. Flannery; J. Grealish, R. Burke, A. Harte (0-1 ); K. Hussey, P. Mannion, G. McInerney; C. Mannion (0-4 ), S. Loftus (0-1 ); N. Burke (0-1 ), J. Canning (0-8fs ), C. Whelan (0-1 ); S. Bleahene (0-2 ), J. Flynn (0-1 ), D. Glennon (0-1 ). Subs: T. Monaghan for Glennon (55 mins ), P. Killeen for Hussey (67 mins ), K. Cooney for Flynn (69 mins ), S. Kilduff for Loftus (73 mins ), J. Mannion for Bleahene (73 mins ).