The Galway hurling dressing room must have been a quiet and sombre place last Sunday afternoon in Nowlan Park after Anthony Cunningham’s young team took a severe pounding by Kilkenny.
Finishing 25 points behind any side – even the perennial All-Ireland champions - is not an easy defeat to swallow and digest.
Unfortunately the 3-26 to 0-10 scoreline says it all about the difference in the sides, and it will take a big effort from the entire panel and the management team to bounce back from such a defeat when they take on Dublin in the relegation play-off on Sunday week in Tullamore (4pm ).
Galway were looking good on four points from three games going into the Waterford tie, but now, after two very disappointing defeats, they must produce a strong performance to post a win victory over Anthony Daly’s side or face the prospect of being relegated to division 1B for next season.
Galway never got out of the blocks last weekend and the game was well over by half time with Kilkenny leading by 15 points, (3-12 to 0-6 ). Three killer goals were supplied by Matthew Ruth, TJ Reid and Eoin Larkin, and those green flags were made easy by some poor Galway defending.
It ensured Galway manager Anthony Cunningham had a torrid two days of sport last weekend with his Garrycastle side also handed a footballing lesson by the kingpins of club football, Crossmaglen, when they went down by 15 points on Saturday.
Cunningham, a pragmatist,offered no excuses for the hurlers’ poor display last Sunday.
"We were rocked with some early goals. It was very poor play from our lads and we have to go back to the drawing board. Things went well early in the league, but the last two results have been very disappointing. We just have to get ourselves right and get everyone’s head right for a big, big battle with Dublin in ten days’ time.”
Cunningham is hopeful that the two-week break will give him and Tom Helebert and Mattie Kenny an opportunity to try to pick things up from those two defeats and refocus on the challenge they face against the current league champions.
"We’ve been playing Sunday after Sunday over the past few months and training hard during the week. Our touch was probably better a month ago — that’s the most disappointing part. It was very poor last Sunday. However we have to drive on.
“Obviously we’re aiming for the championship. We’ve been using the league to try out some new players and some new things, but it didn’t work over the past two weekends. We will have to pick it up and produce a much better performance on Sunday week if we are to stay in division one."
Galway will be hoping both Joe Canning and David Burke will be fit for the do-or-die clash with Dublin. Galway beat Dublin in the first round of the league, but much has changed since then. Based on what Galway produced over the past fortnight, there is no guarantee they will do so again.
While last Sunday was an awful whipping, Galway must be realistic about where this team is compared to Kilkenny who are probably the greatest team in the history of hurling. The majority of the Galway panel are young and will take a few years to adjust to intercounty senior hurling.
Youngsters tend to bounce back much faster than older players from knock-backs and, if they can get their attitude right over the next week or so, there is no reason why they cannot go to Tullamore and rip into Dublin.