O'Neill can afford to experiment as hurlers head to Waterford

For the third successive year the postponement of one of Galway’s National League fixtures could lead to the extension of the competition as Storm Dennis put paid to any hopes of last Sunday’s tie against Tipperary taking place in Pearse Stadium, due to health and safety concerns.

Trips to Wexford away in 2018 and Waterford away in 2019 also fell by the wayside due to inclement weather. There are five consecutive weekends of action now scheduled, with scope to push out the league final to the final Sunday in March to accommodate the re-fixtures, which include Limerick’s home game with Waterford which was also called off last weekend.

The Tribesmen will now travel to the south-east this weekend to take on Liam Cahill’s Waterford outfit in Walsh Park on Sunday (throw-in 2pm ), with the Galway camp eager to produce a confidence-boosting performance after a lacklustre second-half display in defeat to Limerick.

Cahill, a no-nonsense Tipperary native who guided underage sides from the Premier county to three All-Ireland triumphs in recent years, took over the Déise after Padraic Fanning’s short-lived spell in charge, and he immediately made waves by dropping fan favourites Noel Connors and Maurice Shanahan from the panel.

Commendable comeback

A nightmare start in their first league outing against Cork was ominous as two goals were shipped in no time, but with Conor Prunty, Darragh Fives, and newcomer Iarlaith Daly steady thereafter, Waterford staged a commendable comeback to earn a deserved win, with the Bennett brothers, Stephen and Kieran, providing a good chunk of the scores in a 1-24 to 3-17 win.

A week later Waterford travelled to Westmeath where two goals by Stephen Bennett had the points in the bag by half-time, while Ballygunner’s Dessie Hutchinson grabbed his first league score. Patrick Curran completes a potent-looking full forward line, so Galway will have to be very wary as Cahill is known to set up his teams to hunt for goals.

When the two sides eventually met at the same venue last year, Waterford narrowly came out on top by 1-18 to 2-13, en route to a league final appearance, Shane Bennett snatched the win with an injury-time goal in a wind-affected encounter.

This time around it will be interesting to see if Shane O’Neill sticks with the same side that was selected to face Tipperary. St Thomas’ Fintan Burke and Oranmore-Maree’s Niall Burke were among the notable changes to the starting 15 last week, with Sarsfield’s Darren Morrissey and Liam Mellows’ Tadgh Haran also back in the mix.

Whether either Daithí or David Burke will be considered for action on Sunday will also be worth keeping an eye on, as both will surely be an integral part of O’Neill’s plans going forward. The absence of any realistic threat of relegation, though, means Galway can afford to continue to experiment with new systems of play and combinations.

O’Neill will be hoping for a more complete performance against Waterford as supporters look ahead to a Leinster championship campaign which begins with testing away fixtures against both Laois and Wexford. Galway will surely be aiming to peak in May and June and avoid being left looking on again when the summer action hots up.

 

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