GALWAY’S senior hurlers commence their National League campaign against one of their nearest and fiercest rivals, Clare, at Pearse Stadium on Sunday (2pm) by handing three promising young players their debuts.
Defenders John Hanbury of Rahoon/Newcastle and Padraig Mannion of Ahascragh/Fohenagh have been named at corner-back and wing-back respectively while Castlegar attacker Dean Higgins has been listed at left-half forward.
Other than that, Colm Callanan retains his place in goal ahead of Aidan Ryan while the defensive sextet comprises of Hanbury, Fergal Moore, Ronan Burke, Gearoid McInerney, David Collins and Mannion. Iarla Tannian and the in-form Joseph Cooney form the midfield partnership.
Padraig Breheny, Jonathan Glynn and Higgins make up a sniping half-forward line while the inside threat will be provided by James Regan, Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion. There is no room in the starting fifteen, on this occasion, for Portumna’s Andy Smith and Loughrea’s Johnny Coen.
Both Galway and Clare will be anxious to get their National League off to a winning start, particularly after the two counties went nowhere near fulfilling their championship expectations or potential last year – each knocked out of the All-Ireland series by early July.
Consequently, both Galway and Clare should be mad for road this Sunday. “Absolutely,” states Galway selector Damien Curley. “Also, looking at the way the league went last year the home games were massively important. I think in the first two or three rounds the results of those games went the way of home advantage. We have three home games this year so we would be hoping to build on those.”
Certainly, of the two teams, Galway, despite a litany of injuries, would seem to be in the best shape following their morale boosting Walsh Cup title win over Dublin last weekend. However, Curley warns that not too much can be read into those pre-season games.
“I don’t want to demean some of the opposition but the real tests start this weekend. The Walsh Cup is behind us and this is a big step up, match wise. Yes, we are missing some key players but you would still have to be optimistic and be ready to have a rattle at it,” continues Curley.
“You will be expecting Clare to be coming with all guns blazing and trying to get a good start to the year as well. Both teams are in the same boat and will be anxious to kick it off again. The win against Dublin [in the opening game of the League] last year gave us a bit of momentum and we would hope to start the same way again.”
In all, the Galway management used 26 players in the Walsh Cup, although Joe Canning and Kevin Hynes (both fingers) did sustain injuries along the way. They should return in the coming weeks.
They are among a plethora of Tribesmen on the treatment table at the moment, with Conor Cooney, Cyril Donnellan, Niall Healy, David Burke and Niall Burke all long term injuries. Also set to miss the league opener is Turloughmore centre-half back Daithí Burke, who is club-tied with Corofin.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.