Kilkenny boss Brian Cody likes to make statements of intent and by recalling many of his big guns and giving Galway a nine-point trimming last Sunday at Pearse Stadium, 2-20 to 1-14, he laid down a small marker for the year.
The message was simple enough – “Ye Galway boys might win minor and u-21 titles –but we are still the top dogs at senior level and don’t forget it.”
Cody had experimented in the Walsh Cup before last weekend, but the bulk of the 2011 All-Ireland final side saw some action and the Cats were far too powerful for a relatively young Galway outfit.
Despite a pedestrian start, which saw the home side 1-11 to 0-6 behind coming towards half time, they did stage a mini revival.
Following a fine goal by James Regan, Anthony Cunningham’s men managed to get some momentum going and close the gap to come to within three points, and it looked for a few moments as if Galway could make a tight finish of the tie. However when James Skehill was needlessly caught in possession by Cillian Buckley and Eoin Larkin rattled the Galway net, the game was over as a contest.
Riche Power had a tremendous game for Kilkenny and hit 0-11. He was particularly prominent early on and the Galway management was forced to relocate Fergal Moore from full-back to try to nullify his threat.
There were six points between them at the small whistle, 1-13 to 1-7, following Regan’s goal which was set up by Joe Canning
Cody introduced a few more big guns such as Tommy Walsh, Michael Fennelly and Jackie Tyrrell at half time, but it was Galway who were in the groove. Joe Canning hit a few nice points and Conor Cooney also raised a flag.
With Moore driving them on from the back, things looked to be turning Galway’s way, but the concession of the second goal took the wind from their sails and the All-Ireland champions capitalised to run out convincing winners and collect another Walsh Cup.
All is not doom and gloom though for Galway. Many young players have enjoyed game time in the past few weeks which is a positive. The management team will have learnt a fair bit over the past few weeks and everyone knows this project is likely to take a few years, not months.
The next step on that journey will be on Sunday week, February 26, when Galway host Dublin in round one of the National Hurling League.
Galway: James Skehill, Declan Connolly, Fergal Moore, Kevin Hynes, Brian Flaherty, Tony Óg Regan, Paul Huban, Johnny Coen, David Burke (0-2 ), Eanna Ryan, Iarla Tannian, Joe Canning (0-9, 8fs ), Damien Hayes, Conor Cooney (0-1 ), James Regan (1-1 ). Subs: M Lydon for Huban, 30, N Donohue for Flaherty, 30; B Burke (0-1 ) for Hayes, h-t; J Cooney for Coen, 48; T Haran for Ryan, 63.