Having shown signs of a recovery from the defeat to Dublin over the past fortnight, Galway’s next NHL encounter with Kilkenny at Pearse Stadium on Sunday promises to be interesting.
Any clash with the Liam McCarthy Cup holders is always difficult, and Galway will be especially keen to test themselves in front of a healthy home audience.
Since the Dublin loss, two wins have been posted - one in the guise of Connacht. However Kilkenny remain hurling’s standard bearers, and although they suffered a surprising loss to Waterford last weekend, Galway manager John McIntrye is expecting a backlash.
Galway cruised to an easy success over Cork with McIntyre commenting: “It was a difficult fixture for Galway, even coming off the back of a very bad performance against Dublin. At the back of the players’ minds they felt it was a game they were going to win.
"I felt we were sluggish, a little bit lethargic after the Dublin match. We got a good start, but we didn't drive on from there. Even though we won by 14 points, you have to take into account the standard of the opposition. They were admirably brave, those young Cork players. It isn't the real Cork team. We all hope as hurling men that the issues can be resolved soon, the bottom line is that Cork hurling is suffering.”
But Kilkenny will be a step up in class, according to the Galway boss. “We have a mountain of work to do and progress to make. Kilkenny will be smarting after losing to Waterford and we have to up our game by about 200 per cent.”
Still, Galway completed their task in Leeside, and with Connacht defeating Munster the previous weekend, the Dublin defeat is being purged from the system. Galway have dealt with that setback well as McIntrye continues his auditioning process with the summer in mind.
"Any time you get beaten it knocks you for six, and that was a particularly bad loss. We had no excuses. You learn as you go along and we have ourselves back on track. We had a nice win over Munster, and maybe the players found it hard to lift themselves against the standard of opposition in Cork.”
Galway won’t have any such difficulties when Kilkenny come to Salthill. Brian Cody’s charges are always highly focused, and they will be eager and enthusiastic about dealing with Galway.
Cody has suffered against Galway twice in the championship, and saw first hand in the Walsh Cup decider what ability McIntyre’s panel possesses. With neither outfit at full strength, it would be unwise to read too much into the fixture at this premature stage of the year, but all involved will still be searching for crumbs of comfort and encouragement.
Galway will need to police a pacy Kilkenny attack diligently, and trust their own attack can convert the chances that present themselves, with Aonghus Callanan, Niall Healy, and Ger Farragher looking sharp.
It represents an ideal opportunity for Galway to take the most prized hurling scalp, and providing goals are not leaked, a home triumph is not beyond the realms of possibility.