GALWAY senior hurlers will hope to get 2017 off to a winning start when they face a highly rated DIT in an interesting Walsh Cup first round tie at Duggan Park, Ballinasloe on Sunday (2pm).
While on any given day in Spring or Summer the outcome of this may be a foregone conclusion, this is unlikely to be the case on this occasion. For one, Galway will be without both their club and college-tied players while, as noted, DIT have a number of notable players.This was reflected in their showing in last year’s competition where they defeated Kilkenny 4-14 to 0-16. In that game, Wexford duo Conor McDonald and Jack Guiney, along with Westmeath’s Derek McNicholas, ran riot. Another prominent player in their set-up is Kilkenny senior Liam Blanchfield.
DIT’s victory over Kilkenny was no freak result either. When Galway and DIT last met in this competition in 2011, the Tribesmen, who were 14 points adrift at one stage, had to hit an astonishing 12 unanswered points in the closing quarter to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Galway will be without those players caught up in All-Ireland club competitions, namely David and Eanna Burke and Conor Cooney (St. Thomas’), brothers Padraig and Cathal Mannion (Ahascragh/Fohenagh) and All-Star Daithí Burke (Corofin footballers).
In addition, with the third-level colleges also having first call on their players, the Tribesmen will be without their NUIG contingent, which includes Conor Whelan, Kevin McHugo, Michael Conneely and Aidan Helebert.
Although long term injury victims Joe Canning (hamstring) and Adrian Tuohy (dislocated shoulder) are on the road to recovery, they are unlikely to see action for several months.
Manager Michéal Donoghue does have a number of other injury concerns – among them LIT’s Paul Killeen who broke his hand in Connacht’s 1-14 to 1-12 Inter-provincial semi-final defeat to Leinster in December.
The Galway team that lines out this Sunday should be a shadow of that Connacht team – albeit a pale one – and Donoghue admitted between the comings and goings it will be later in the week before management finalises a selection.
That said, despite the difficulties these tournaments pose in terms of the availability of college and club players for inter-county teams annually, Donoghue acknowledged it did offer new players an opportunity to come to the fore for their county at senior level while also creating “a nice pathway” into the National League for those county sides able to put an early-year run of results together.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.