Leinster Championship, group stage, round 1.
Galway v Carlow
Pearse Stadium, Galway
Galway open their Leinster round robin series of matches with, what on paper, looks to be their easiest fixture – a home tie against newly promoted Carlow. However, Carlow will be buoyed after their 20 points apiece draw with the reigning Leinster Champions in their National League fixture back in early February.
Last years victory over Westmeath in the Joe McDonagh Cup final gave the Carlow men the right to dine at the top table this year and they know the challenges won’t come any greater than a visit to last years Leinster Champions and beaten All-Ireland finalists Galway.
I caught up with Galway’s Cathal Mannion ahead of their first Championship fixture of the summer. He claimed: “We can’t look past Carlow on Sunday”, “we drew with them in the league, so we know it’s going to be a massively competitive game, we’re not looking past the 12th May.”
Galway’s top scorer in league and championship last year, Joe Canning, is a high profile absentee as a groin injury has ruled him out until mid-June at the earliest. Speaking with Cathal Mannion last week he said: “We are stronger collectively than any one individual”. But on the plus side for the county, they have been given a boost by the return to the panel of Johnny Glynn and Joseph Cooney. On that topic, Mannion said: “yeah look, it’s great to have lads of that calibre coming back onto the panel”.
Hurling in Carlow has been on the rise for a few years now, it first came on the national radar when Mount Leinster Rangers had a fairytale journey to the All-Ireland Club final in 2014, however, it was a Galway side, Portumna, that ended their journey on that occasion. It’s hard to see anything beyond a comfortable win for the Tribesmen on their home patch this weekend.