Galway travel to Mullingar on Saturday to face Westmeath in the quarter final of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship. It is Galway’s third year competing in Leinster and the Tribesmen are huge favourites against Westmeath.
The football Championship has already given us two shocks as London forced extra time against Mayo and Leitrim beat Sligo. A repeat in the hurling championship on Saturday, however, is unlikely. In their last meeting in the 2006 qualifiers, Galway dominated a weak Westmeath team. The Tribesmen rushed into a 1-10 to 0-2 half time lead on their way to a 3-21 to 0-6 victory. Ger Farragher was the main thorn in Westmeath’s side that day, scoring 1-5.
Galway have struggled to convert their former dominance in Connaught into Leinster championship titles. In 2009 Kilkenny ousted the Tribesmen in the Leinster semi final. Galway then beat Clare and Cork in the qualifiers before losing to Waterford in the All-Ireland quarter final. A similar scenario played out last year as Galway lost to Kilkenny in the Leinster final before losing to eventual Liam McCarthy Cup winners Tipperary in the All-Ireland quarter final.
Westmeath enter the Liam McCarthy Cup this year after winning last season’s Christy Ring Cup. The Lake County beat Carlow in the first round by 4-10 to 1-14 and will be hoping to take that form into Saturday’s match. Westmeath suffered a miserable league campaign, however, losing all seven matches and finishing last in Division 2.
Galway experienced highs and lows in the league. The westerners finished fifth in Division 1, winning four and losing three. Galway enjoyed impressive victories over fellow Leinster challengers Kilkenny and Dublin in consecutive weeks, but lost narrowly to Cork and Waterford and were dismantled by Tipperary, who beat the Tribesmen by 17 points.
Galway will be missing some key figures from their starting line-up. Joe Canning and Ger Farragher, who have knee and hamstring injuries respectively, might start on the bench. Iarla Tannian (fractured thumb) and Alan Kerins will also miss out, while Niall Donoghue is a doubt. Westmeath’s biggest injury concern is Eoin Price, who suffered a dead leg in training.
In an interview with the Galway Independent, Galway manager John McIntyre said: “It is a no-win situation for us. If we win by 20 or 25 points then people will say that is what they expected, but if we only get through by a few points then it will be different. The most important thing for us is to approach the match in a professional manner, keep our heads down and get the job done.”
Westmeath’s manager Brian Hanley, who was a Galway under 21 selector last season, is refusing to write off his side’s chances. In an interview with RTE, Hanley said: “We just have to look for a performance and the score will look after itself. There’s massive potential [in Westmeath].”
Hanley was very complimentary of Galway hurling, describing the county as a “sleeping giant”. He also named midfielder David Burke as the “most skilful player [he’s] ever coached or managed”.
Galway team: J Skehill, D Joyce, D Collins, F Moore, J Coen, J Lee, A Cullinane, D Burke, K Hynes, B Daly, C Donnellan, A Smith, D Hayes, J Gantley, A Callinan