The Galway senior hurlers Allianz League Division 1 campaign kicks off in earnest this weekend after they recorded a facile 1-24 to 0-10 opening day win over Westmeath in Pearse Stadium on Sunday.
Galway were already in control and led by five when Westmeath centre half back Aonghus Clarke was dismissed on a second yellow just before half-time, which turned the remainder of the contest into a forgettable affair which the hosts unsurprisingly dominated.
A cracking first-half goal by Conor Whelan and a six-point haul from play by Tadhg Haran were the bright spots in a performance from which new manager Shane O’Neill struggled to extract many positives.
“Delighted to get two points, to get up and running,” O’Neill said afterwards. “An awful lot to work on performance wise, but it’s great to get the first competitive match and get the win. It’s very difficult at this time of the year just trying to get the hurling sharp enough.
“We weren’t particularly delighted with the standard of the hurling that we had. We had a lot of chances there that we didn’t take. But that’s just a bit of sharpness that’ll come as the games come along.
“I think the sending off definitely took from the game, which it can do at times. I didn’t think that we dealt with it particularly well. It is something that we need to work on.”
O’Neill was enthused by the positive showings from Clarinbridge’s TJ Brennan, Tommy Larkins' goalkeeper Eanna Murphy, and Annaghdown’s Diarmuid Kilcommins on their league debuts, while the return to action of Joe Canning at centre half forward was another plus.
This weekend will see O’Neill return to his native county on Sunday afternoon to take on a Limerick side buoyed by a remarkable second-half comeback against Tipperary. O’Neill is under no illusions as to how difficult the task will be for a Galway side still without their St Thomas contingent.
“It’ll be a huge step up,” O’Neill admitted. “We saw Limerick against Tipperary on Saturday, in the first half again they were off slightly, but they really upped the ante in the second half. We’ve been taking each game as it comes, and we will try to get a performance each time, and go from week to week.”
A path to this year’s league semi-finals is a particularly tough ask for Galway, with Tipperary the next side to visit Pearse Stadium before an arduous trip to Waterford and a final round clash with Cork. O’Neill will surely be looking to find a few new players who can prove themselves to be ready for championship action later in the year.
Galway : E Murphy; D Morrissey, G McInerney, TJ Brennan; J Coen, P Mannion, A Tuohy; S Linnane (0-1 ), T Haran (0-6 ); D Kilcommins, J Canning (0-12, 9fs, 1 65 ), C Mannion (0-3 ); J Flynn, C Whelan (1-0 ), J Mannion. Subs: A Harte for Tuohey (35 ), S Bleahene (0-1 ) for J Mannion (43 mins ), T Monaghan (0-1 ) for Flynn (57 ), J Grealish for Linnane (57 ), P Killeen for Morrissey (68 ).
Westmeath: A McHugh; J Bermingham, T Doyle, A Ennis; A Craig, A Clarke, S Clavin; C Boyle (0-1 ), L Varley; R Greville, J Boyle, K Doyle (0-7fs ); D Clinton (0-2, 1f ), N Mitchell, E Price. Subs: B Doyle for Bermingham (19 ), J Gilligan for Varley (35, A Cox for Greville (52 ), J Galvin for Price (62 ).
Referee : J Murphy (Limerick ).