Galway senior hurlers require two positive results from their remaining home fixtures, starting on Sunday against Cork in Pearse Stadium (2pm ).
Having fallen to Waterford in Walsh Park by a one-point defeat for the second year running, Galway will need a victory on Sunday and against Tipperary to advance to the knock-out stages.
How much importance Galway will put on getting to the quarter-finals is unknown, but further tests for inexperienced newcomers would be welcome ahead of the summer.
Kieran Kingston’s Cork side head for Salthill this coming Sunday in decent spirits, having already beaten Tipperary and Westmeath, while also making Limerick work hard in the second half last weekend before finally losing out by 0-29 to 2-21.
Kingston complained in the aftermath that the contest had been ruined by the number of frees awarded on the day, and it is hard to argue when his inspirational top scorer Patrick Horgan amassed an astonishing total of 0-17, with only one of those points coming from play. Shane Kingston brought his goal tally to three with another for the highlights reel, and Cork also know that a win on Sunday will put them through.
The availability of the Burkes, Daithí and David, for Galway will again be keenly watched as manager Shane O’Neill looks for quality performances. An extended rest for both may well be the best course of action considering the extensive miles on the clock both have put themselves through in the last number of years.
Galway’s attacking efficiency will surely have to improve if they are to trouble Cork, while the bedding-in process for half backs Shane Cooney and Fintan Burke will also be worth watching during the new manager’s first real test in front of a demanding home support.
Last Sunday Waterford substitute Peter Hogan proved the home side’s hero with a late point that booked Liam Cahill’s side's place in the quarter-finals with two games to spare, winning 0-17 to 0-16.
With Joe Canning a late absentee from the Galway starting line-up, and captain Padraic Mannion also having to depart early due to injury, Shane O’Neill will perhaps not be too disheartened by a performance blighted by some poor shooting at times, especially when the game was in the melting pot at the death.
Galway had more wides than scores in the first half as a tit-for-tat spell ended with Waterford pulling three clear late in the half. Austin Gleeson was in excellent form on his first start of the year, and Galway were thankful for the determined efforts of Conor Whelan and Cathal Mannion, while Tadgh Haran took over the free-taking duties in Canning’s absence.
Waterford extended their lead to five when Jamie Barron and Pauric Mahony were on target in the third quarter, but Galway’s response was admirable as Whelan hit two on the spin. Further scores by Mannion (two ), Whelan, and substitute Evan Niland (two ) drew Galway level with time almost up, but Hogan had the last word as late efforts by Jason Flynn and Sean Loftus were unsuccessful and left the visitors without a share of the spoils their efforts had probably deserved.
Galway v Waterford: J Skehill; D Morrissey, G McInerney, S Loftus (0-1 ); P Mannion, S Cooney, F Burke; C Mannion (0-3 ), A Tuohy; N Burke, B Concannon (0-2 ), T Haran (0-3fs ); S Bleahene (0-1 ), C Whelan (0-4 ), C Cooney. Subs: S Linnane for P Mannion (18 ), J Flynn for Bleahene (44 ), C Walsh for C Cooney (50 ), E Niland (0-2fs ) for Haran (56 ), TJ Brennan for F Burke (66 ).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford )