The Galway senior hurlers face Offaly at Croke Park this Sunday in the Leinster semi-final with a 4pm throw-in, and based on recent form the Tribesmen are expected to hold sway.
Galway manager John McIntyre however has been around the block too long to be sucked into a comfort zone by any such loose talk, and he fully expects to have a massive battle with a group of players he knows extremely well from his three years in charge of Offaly from 2005 to 2008.
“I have huge respect for Offaly hurling and for the Offaly players. They are a very proud bunch of men and Offaly have always been a top quality hurling county. They have a very talented forward division and players like Shane Dooley, Joe Bergin and Brian Carroll are top quality players. They come into Sunday's match with the best of both worlds.
“They had a really tough game against Antrim and are being written off in many quarters. I know we are facing a tough task on Sunday and nobody in the Galway camp is looking past this game. They were five points down against Antrim, a man down, facing the wind, and they still dug themselves out of a big hole. That's the kind of team they are, and we are on red-alert for the challenge they pose. We are not looking past Sunday and we would be very foolish to do so.”
Galway have a number of significant injury worries ahead of the game and the team will not be selected until Thursday night at the earliest: Corner forward Aidan Harte has emerged as a major injury doubt, and he is receiving intensive treatment on a hip injury he sustained while playing for Gort in the Galway SHC. Another key concern is Damien Hayes who is suffering from a knee injury and he will be given as long as possible to prove his fitness.
McIntyre is hopeful that Hayes and Harte will recover in time for this weekend, particularly as he is already planning without the suspended Andy Smyth, Kevin Hayes (hamstring ), Conor Dervan (thumb ), and Richie Cummins who is struggling with an ankle injury that is proving slow to heal.
Ger Farragher, Tony Og Regan, Damien Joyce, Damien Hayes and Niall Hayes (shoulder ) are also nursing injuries, but are expected to be fit and available for selection for the clash with Joe Dooley's side.
McIntyre is pragmatic about his injured players and he is not prepared to offer the injuries up as any kind of an excuse for a substandard performance. "The number of injuries we have is a cause of concern and to be honest the club championship is beginning to take its toll,” he says. As a consequence of all the injuries we have had to bring in a number of players for our trial matches because we simply don't have enough bodies to field two teams from the panel. But we are making no excuses and injury is part and parcel of all top sports. We just have to get on with it and pick from the panel of players available to us.”
“Our attitude is to pick the players that are going well in training. Team selection is not based on reputation and we have a number of players who missed the Wexford tie who will be chomping at the bit to play this weekend.”
Galway have a strong panel and there is no doubt that players like Niall Healy, Aongus Callanan, Iarla Tannian will all be hopeful of getting a starting jersey if the likes of Damien Hayes or Aidan Harte don't recover from injury for Sunday.
McIntyre concludes in optimistic fashion adding;
“We are optimistic that if we play to our potential we will give ourselves every chance of reaching what would be a historic Leinster final. But we have to beat Offaly first. We know that won't be easy, however I believe we have the panel of players to do so if they perform as we expect them to.
“Hopefully by 5.30pm this Sunday we will be in a Leinster final.”