Having comfortably outclassed Westmeath last weekend, the Galway senior hurlers face their stiffest test of the 2022 season to date when Kilkenny roll into town on Sunday for a mouth-watering clash in round three of the Leinster championship.
Brian Cody’s men have made light work of seeing off both Westmeath and Laois in their opening games, scoring 2-27 from play alone in their defeat of Cheddar Plunkett’s men last Saturday at Nowlan Park.
Pádraig Walsh continues to revel in a centre half forward berth, while Eoin Cody, Walter Walsh, TJ Reid, John Donnelly, and Billy Ryan make up a forward division blessed with pace, guile and a physical presence. Throw in a free-scoring Adrian Mullen into the middle third and it is hardly surprising to see that Sunday’s contest is being viewed by the odds-makers as a coin toss.
The fact that Henry Shefflin will be facing his native county for the first time as an intercounty manager in such a pressure cooker environment adds further spice to the mix, but championship fixtures between these two counties have always been full-blooded affairs.
Since Galway entered the Leinster championship in 2009, the counties have crossed swords 12 times at provincial level, with both winning on five occasions and stalemate occurring twice.
Another deadlock is a live prospect, but the Cats have arguably shown the better form to this point. And, with star forward Conor Whelan likely to miss this game through injury, the tone for Galway’s performance will need to be set by experienced campaigners such as Cathal Mannion, Conor Cooney, Joseph Cooney, and Daithí Burke.
David Burke returned to the midfield sector against Westmeath and had plenty of classy touches, and the St Thomas’ man may be a vital component if Galway are to prove successful. Whichever way Galway line up, they will also have to get a significant contribution from their replacements.
Last weekend Gavin Lee and Éanna Burke both registered scores after their late introduction, while Cianan Fahy’s confidence will have been boosted from a personal tally of 1-4 from full forward.
It is almost three years since a high profile inter-county hurling championship fixture has taken place at Pearse Stadium. A large and vocal home support can aid Galway in their quest to recapture the Leinster title.
Galway: É Murphy; J Grealish, Daithí Burke, D Morrissey (0-1 ); P Mannion (0-2 ), G McInerney, F Burke (0-1 ); David Burke (0-3 ), C Mannion (0-4 ); T Monaghan (0-1 ), C Cooney (1-8, 1-0 pen, 5fs ), J Cooney (1-5 ); E Niland (0-2 ), C Fahy (1-4 ), B Concannon (0-2 ). Subs: T Killeen for P Mannion (35 ) K Cooney for Monaghan (52 ), G Lee (0-2 ) for Niland (59 ), É Burke (0-1 ) for C Cooney (63 ), J Coen for Daithi Burke (71 ).
Westmeath: C Bracken; C Shaw, T Doyle, J Bermingham (0-1 ); A Craig, R Greville, J Galvin; C Boyle, K Regan (0-1 ); D Glennon (0-1 ), D McNicholas (1-0 ), J Boyle; K Doyle (0-14, 12fs, 1 ’65 ), N O’Brien, N Mitchell. Subs: C Kane for C Boyle, O McCabe for McNicholas (51 ), A Cox for T Doyle (52 ), S McGovern for O’Brien (65 ).Referee: P Murphy (Carlow ).