Galway open league campaign against injury-hit All-Ireland champions

The Galway senior hurlers start their 2013 league campaign this Sunday in Pearse Stadium (2pm ), and they do so in the best possible way, with a home game against All-Ireland and league champions Kilkenny.

Galway selector Mattie Kenny believes this opening fixture is a good opportunity for the panel to build on their impressive display in Sunday’s Railway Cup win over Leinster.

The all-Galway Connacht squad won that tie in Tullamore by 3-13 to 1-16, with Colm Callanan, Damien Hayes and Davy Glennon raising the white flags.

“This Sunday is another chance for our lads to take on one of the best teams in the country and see how they get on,” Mattie Kenny says. “ We played Kilkenny a few times last year and there is a good rivalry between the counties now and it is a game that we and many of the Galway supporters are looking forward to.”

Galway will be without two of their best primary ball winners this weekend due to suspension. Cyril Donnellan (Padraig Pearses ) is unavailable due to his red card in last year’s replayed All-Ireland final, while Andy Smith (Portumna ) is suspended as a result of a harsh red card in the Walsh Cup.

Kenny says these suspensions give opportunities to other players to get some starting jerseys, game time, and show how they can compete at the top level.

“Last Sunday in the Railway Cup was a chance for some of the fringe players on the panel to come in and give a good account of themselves. This Sunday is another opportunity for players to produce a high quality performance. We are focusing on the performance as much as the results at the moment. Similar to last year, we are getting the lads to focus on their work-rate and try to keep a very high tempo in each game.

“We aim to be very competitive in the league and we want to have a good start in front of our home supporters. However Kilkenny will no doubt be coming west looking for a win too. They are a top-class side and we are looking forward to taking them on.”

Kilkenny injuries

Brian Cody is a master craftsman at preparing teams for both league and championship action, but the Cats have several injuries at the moment.

Speaking in the Irish Examiner during the week he outlined the substantial injury list.

“Michael Rice is a fair bit away from hurling. It is going to be a couple of months anyway and hopefully he gets back into it. Henry [Shefflin] is out of the equation for quite a while too. TJ [Reid] is out since the All-Ireland replay and is targeting May to be back. Cillian Buckley had a hip operation and is getting closer to fitness, but he’ll be a few weeks,” he said.

Last year’s All-Ireland replay sensation Walter Walsh is also unavailable

“Walter Walsh has tendonitis in both knees — we don’t know yet to be honest. Eoin Larkin has on-going groin difficulties, but it’s just a question of managing them and take it as it comes so we have quite a few.”

In light of those injuries, Cody admitted he was anticipating a tricky league campaign as a result.

“The league is coming up and it is going to be very interesting, but it’s very hard for us to see how we are going to go — we are going to be struggling injury-wise for quite a while I’d say, but that’s fine. It doesn’t bother me either too much once the injuries recover. It is the opportunity to test the panel and it is going to be massively tested going over to Galway on Sunday.”

The bookies have the home side at evens, with Kilkenny at 10/11.

* The Galway county board is expecting a large crowd at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. The game is live on TG4.

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