The Galway senior hurlers face an arduous repeat of their trek down to the southeast coast this weekend to complete their division 1B campaign against Waterford, after Sunday’s fixture was postponed less than an hour before throw-in due to a waterlogged Walsh Park.
While player safety is always of the utmost importance - and no one questioned the decision not to play the game - the lateness of the pitch inspection and subsequent postponement drew the ire of plenty of Galway supporters who had made the long journey south, only to have to turn around and head home again.
With April now ringfenced for club championship games only, the pressure to get this league completed as soon as possible may explain why every opportunity was taken to see if the skies would clear, but common sense should have prevailed earlier, given the forecasted conditions and the distances involved.
Games scheduled for Páirc Uí Rinn and Wexford Park also fell foul of the weather, forcing all four of the quarter-finals to be pushed back to St Patrick’s weekend, and a Saturday double-header in Pearse Stadium with the Galway footballers' clash with Roscommon now becomes a real possibility.
Having hammered Offaly a week earlier in Tullamore when resting a number of key players, it will be interesting to see what sort of team Micheál Donoghue elects to put out on Sunday. On paper this fixture is little more than a glorified challenge match and another chance to experiment with tactics and personnel, but given these teams' recent past, neither will want to give an inch.
Having played their first two home games in Semple Stadium and Fraher Field, Waterford will return to Walsh Park for the first time this year, having last week received welcome confirmation that two of their Munster championship games will be hosted in the city venue.
High-scoring displays against Offaly, Carlow, and Laois had ensured new Déise manager Paraic Fanning’s tenure is off to an encouraging, albeit expected, winning start, before Dublin halted their run with a narrow win in another free scoring encounter in Parnell Park. It took a penalty save to deny Stephen Bennett a late winner though, as Dublin clung on for a 1-26 to 4-15 victory.
Bennett has been Waterford’s scorer-in-chief with 3-43 to his name to date, although 1-34 of that total has come from placed balls. Whether Fanning will do away with the sweeper system that his predecessor employed, is as yet unclear, but his naming of Michael “Brick” Walsh in the half-back line last week was a change of approach from recent years.
Galway’s defensive structure looks set for its first real test of 2019, and whether it comes through it unscathed will be a measure of the progress made on the training fields to date. A prolonged league run would be a morale boost for all involved ahead of the real tests later in the summer.
* Waterford v Galway Sunday 2pm at Walsh Park - deferred TG4 coverage.