Galway seek first cup in six years

Date Published: 11-Feb-2010

STEPHEN GLENNON

THERE is one change to the Galway hurling team which will face Dublin in the Walsh Cup decider at Parnell Park on Sunday (12:45pm). Goalkeeper Colm Callanan replaces James Skehill as the management continue with their early season policy of rotating their netminders from game to game.

Other than that, the starting fifteen remains the same, with Damien Joyce, captain Shane Kavanagh and Pat Holland lining out in the full-back line and Donal Barry, Tony Óg Regan and Kevin Hynes marshalling the half-back berths.

Castlegar’s Ger Farragher, who has tallied 1-19 (0-18 from places balls) in the Tribesmen’s two tournament games so far, and Mullagh’s Niall Cahalan will reprise their midfield roles.

In attack, Aonghus Callanan, Cyril Donnellan and David Burke man the half-forward line, while the inside threat will be posed by Aidan Harte, Joe Gantley and Portumna’s Niall Hayes, who must sit out his club side’s All-Ireland semi-final clash against Ulster champions Dunloy in the following game at Parnell Park due to a one-match suspension in that particular championship.

While Galway – seeking to claim their first piece of silverware since their National League title win of 2004 – are short their Portumna contingent, along with other first choice players through injury, such as Turloughmore’s Fergal Moore and Craughwell duo Adrian Cullinane and Niall Healy, the Westerners still boast a neat blend of experience and talent going into this game.

No more so than in the defence, where Callanan, Joyce, Kavanagh and the returning Regan all boast big game experience while Kevin Hynes continues to develop into an accomplished and versatile inter-county player.

Farragher, then, has maintained his hold on a midfield jersey, and rightly so given his impressive performances in this sector throughout the latter stages of last year’s championship.

Up front, Beagh’s Joe Gantley looks to have finally realised the great potential he has shown at club level, by recording scores of 1-1 and 1-6 against Laois and Offaly respectively. He will be looked to spearhead the attack again on Sunday.

Of course, this competition has also afforded senior newcomers like Ardrahan’s Pat Holland, Castlegar’s Donal Barry, Mullagh’s Niall Cahalan, and Galway’s 2009 U-21 duo Aidan Harte and the exciting David Burke an opportunity to make their mark. Certainly, on the evidence so far, all have proved useful additions to the squad.

Still, Galway face a Dublin side that has recorded wins over NUI Galway (2-16 to 0-12) and Wexford (2-17 to 2-13) so far in the competition, while the Liffeysiders will also be buoyed by their 2-21 to 0-15 victory over John McIntyre’s outfit in the first round of the National League last Spring.

Understandably, then, the Galway manager is wary of next Sunday’s opposition. “We are going into this fixture with our eyes open after what happened to us in the first round of the league last year,” admitted McIntyre.

“Dublin also had an incredible result against Wexford last Saturday, winning by four points after they were reduced to 13 men with 20 minutes to go. It was some performance, particularly as Wexford are never easy to beat down there. So, we are up against it, but at least we know that.”

Meanwhile, both St. Thomas’ Richie Murray and Gort’s Andy Coen have pulled out of the Galway panel in the last week, citing work commitments. However, the management do welcome back former captain David Collins, who made his long awaited return from injury when resuming training last Monday night. He has been added to the Galway squad for the Dublin game.