Date Published: 28-Mar-2013
THE GAA said to “unexpect the expected” when they launched the Allianz National Hurling League, but few could have imagined that only two points would separate bottom side Galway from top team Waterford when the sides clash in the final fixture of the Division 1A campaign at Walsh Park on Sunday (3pm).
There are all sorts of possible permutations from the final series of games, but the bottom line is that Galway need to win if they are to avoid contesting the relegation play-off for the second year running. Conversely, a win would give them a great chance of finishing in the top three and grabbing a place in the semi-finals. The margin has never been tighter.
But Waterford have always been tough opponents for the Tribesmen, never having lost to them in ten championship meetings, and the home side will start as favourites following their thrilling 1-14 to 0-16 victory over Tipperary at Walsh Park last Sunday.
With Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh in sensational form at centre back, they overturned a five point deficit against Tipp by hitting six unanswered late points, including an equaliser from Jake Dillon and a last minute winner from team captain Kevin Moran.
Team manager Michael Ryan hailed his side’s stunning comeback as a “tremendous performance” and his side has been clearly rejuvenated by the arrival of some younger players. While they were overcoming Tipp, Galway were struggling to make wind advantage count before they had to settle for a draw against Cork at Pearse Stadium last weekend.
Attacker Niall Healy, who was named in the starting XV before being replaced by Cyril Donnellan last Sunday, is set to miss weeks of action after injuring a tendon in his arm during a practice game last Friday.
And former U-21 captain Barry Daly, who has been extremely unfortunate with injuries over the past year, is also set to miss out after suffering a new knee injury – which requires surgery – after being named as a substitute last weekend.
“It’s disappointing for both lads, as Niall had worked his way back into the team in the League while Barry hasn’t had a chance to play for us since we took over,” said Galway manager Anthony Cunningham on Wednesday.
But at least Cunningham and his management team saw the St Thomas’ contingent return to inter-county training on Tuesday night, with David Burke, Conor Cooney, James Regan, and Darragh Burke all bringing fresh enthusiasm to the session following their All-Ireland club final victory on St Patrick’s Day.
“We are good to go now,” said Cunningham. “It’s a ‘winner-takes-all’ game, it’s as simple as that. We are going down there knowing we need to win, while Waterford have been very impressive in this League. Not many teams run Kilkenny close down in Nolan Park, while they’ve also managed one point wins over Clare and Tipperary.”
Waterford’s desire to keep battling to the end has been impressive right through the current League and they will expect to beat the Tribesmen, despite Galway’s championship heroics last Summer, on home soil.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here
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For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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