Galway hurlers recover from early jitters to master Offaly

Galway attacker Brian Concannon gets his pass away despite the attentions of Offaly's Ben Conneely and Tom Spain during Saturday's Leinster chmapionship clash at O'Connor Park. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Galway 5-18

Offaly 2-15

THE local hard-to-please brigade won’t have been bowled over by everything they saw in Tullamore on Saturday evening, but as a starting point in Galway’s defence of the All-Ireland title, this ultimately convincing dozen-point victory proved more than an adequate launch pad.

First of all, a spirited Offaly offered far more resistance than in the corresponding fixture 12 months ago, resulting in Galway having to roll up the sleeves, particularly in the first half, before stretching clear on the resumption in front of what appeared a conservative official attendance of 8,300.

Understandably, the men in maroon were somewhat rusty early on, especially in defence and around midfield, but the longer the game went the more Galway began to grow in authority against admittedly tiring opponents. Their class, confidence and experience gradually widening the gulf between the teams.

Furthermore, for a squad which only managed two goals in their championship campaign in 2017, Galway’s raising of five green flags – it could have been eight only for the heroics of Offaly ‘keeper Eoghan Cahill – was a significant statement of intent for the rest of the summer.

A cricket-score margin of victory might have left Galway vulnerable in advance of looming fixtures against Kilkenny and Wexford, but their hunger and ambition was tested by Offaly who really carried the battle to the title holders in the opening half, characterised by neatly working through the phases, good support play and loads of commitment.

The home team weren’t intimidated by Galway’s reputation either, lining up conventionally and abandoning their sweeper system which served them so poorly last year. A measure of how competitive Offaly were proving was reflected in them trailing by just a point (1-8 to 1-7) after just 32 minutes.

Galway were getting it hard. Their backline was under pressure, none more so than Gearóid McInerney, whose pace was tested when trying to cover the flanks as well as fumbling one or two possessions. With Johnny Coen and David Burke struggling to get a foothold in midfield, Offaly were creating plenty of opportunities, but nine first-half wides undermined their challenge.

Full match report in this week’s Connacht Tribune.