The Galway hurlers are back in the Leinster final for a third year in a row courtesy of a facile win over Offaly at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise on Sunday.`
Galway have won the Bob O'Keefe trophy once, in 2012, with a super display against Kilkenny, and they will be keen to turn that one Leinster title to two on Sunday week against Wexford.
As expected last Sunday’s game turned out to be a total mismatch. Michéal Donoghue’s charges won by 19 points , 0-33 to 1-11.
As Offaly manager Kevin Ryan said after the game, his side was not in the top 10 or 12 teams in the country, whereas Galway were rated in the top two/three - hence, his team could not be expected to compete on an even level with them. He said their physical conditioning was a long way off Galway’s and it would take them at least a year to try to make up the deficit. That is only one part of the problem for Offaly though - they had only four scorers over the hour; Galway had nine different names on the scoresheet.
One game at a time
Galway manager Michéal Donoghue was, as always, pragmatic after the win, not deviating from the group’s mantra “one-game-at-a-time”. It is a simple message and one his panel has bought into.
They are taking no heed of having been installed as favourites to win the biggest hurling prize later in the year and break the almost 30 year famine from 1987.
As Donoghue pointed out: “Winning is a habit. We have done well in the last few games. We just keep going. That’s the nature of the beast.”
With Dublin and Offaly dispatched, next up is Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford in 10 days' time (July 2 ) and it will be interesting to see how Galway respond to the physical challenge they will present.
Whelan's 0-7 from play
Last weekend it took Galway some time to get going, having been hit by an early Oisin Kelly goal after four minutes. However Galway responded well with points from the two Mannions, Whelan, and Conor Cooney to lead 0-16 to 1-6 at the small whistle.
Offaly had no one to match Whelan's pace and direct running as he hit seven points from play in a fine display.
Joe Canning hit five in the first half and ended the tie with 0-7, despite being subbed with 10 minutes remaining.
Galway scored 0-33 from 52 scoring chances and shot seven wides in the first half, and their lack of goals will be a concern for management.
They will face other teams in the championship that will play a sweeper – as Wexford do – and the question remains how Galway will grab a goal or two if faced with a mass defence.
The lack of a Johnny Glynn or Joe Canning as a target man may become an issue against a defence supported by sweepers, and it is something the Galway management team will be planning for.
A big positive for Galway were the surging runs of half-backs Aidan Harte and Padraic Mannion, who have both been in top form over the past few weeks. Between they they contributed 0-5 from play.
The bottom line is that it was a job well done for Galway. Nothing more, nothing less.
Everyone appreciates that Sunday week will be a massive step-up in intensity and physicality.
With its new and novel pairing, the Leinster final is a game to which all hurling fans are looking forward.
The Wexford supporters will travel in their hordes to Croke Park and the “Davy factor” has the purple and gold tribe ballistic. They believe.
It will help generate a massive atmosphere at the game. It should be a cracker.
Galway: C Callanan (Kinvara ), A Tuohy (Beagh ), Daithí Burke (Rahoon-Newcastle ), J Hansbury (Rahoon-Newcastle ), P Mannion (0-02 ) (Ahascragh-Fohenagh ), G McInerney (Oranmore-Maree ), A Harte (0-03 ) (Gort ), J Coen (0-02 ) (Loughrea ), David Burke (Cpt ) (St Thomas ), J Flynn (Tommy Larkins ), J Canning (0-07, 0-06f ) (Portumna ), N Burke (0-05 ) (Oranmore-Maree ), C Whelan (0-07 ) (Kinvara ), C Mannion (0-02 ) (Ahascragh-Fohenagh ), C Cooney (0-01 ) (St Thomas ). Subs: S Maloney (0-04 ) (Tynagh-Abbey/Duniry ) for C Mannion (24 ), M Donohue (Maigh Cuilinn ) for P Mannion (55 ), S Loftus (Turloughmore ) for Tuohy (58 ), E Burke (St Thomas ) for Canning (61 ), P Brehony (Tynagh-Abbey/Duniry ) for David Burke (62 ).