Galway hurlers target top three from Leinster championship

Galway senior hurlers open this season's championship season when they face Wexford in Saturday's opening round of the Leinster SHC at Chadwicks Wexford Park.

The fixture marks their 40th game since joining the Leinster championship in 2009, but only their second game in Wexford Park - and the first outing for new manager Henry Shefflin.

The former Ballyhale clubman and Kilkenny legend was something of surprise, but welcome appointment, and in his first senior management role, he now takes Galway to Wexford which will be a difficult baptism.

With a mixed bag of league results - losing to Wexford in Pearse Stadium - Galway will want to start this highly competitive campaign with a victory.

Galway are only missing Jason Flynn (hamstring ) and Shane Cooney (knee ), and know this will be a real test for a team which they describe as "in transition".

Selector and former St Thomas' Manager Kevin Lally says Galway have used 34 panelists during the league, in addition to players used in the Walsh Cup.

"There’s a balance between the Walsh Cup, league, the players we see, and obviously then on the training blocks for the last three weeks. There’s obviously, in this job now, a transition period in Galway hurling. There's a large influx on the panel and the lads from over the years aren’t around," Lally says.

"You can see during the league we have given loads of guys different game time at different stages, and thankfully a lot of them have put their hands up. We will be picking the team on the back of league performances and then the last three weeks of training."

The target for this season is to qualify in one of the three places available.

“We are in a very competitive Leinster championship. Let’s be straight about it, there are three places up for grabs and we want to be in one of the three places, which is going to be very, very difficult," he says. "And starting at the weekend in Wexford, an away fixture down there, it’s going to be a hard fixture to get up and running with. But our goal is to be in the top three in Leinster."

Damian Joyce says in a new and condensed season, Galway, with five games in six weeks, will test Galway, and it is a learning curve for the new management.

"We've all been very impressed with Wexford. They are under new management as well, won all the games through throughout that league and beat us in Salthill. They are fine outfit and it will be a formidable task going to Wexford no doubt."

A former captain, Joyce says Galway needs to allow players time to grow into their roles, having lost some experienced players.

"With any transition and obviously it's a new management team and a new panel, there are lots of opportunities. We need to allow players time to grow into roles, get familiar with players around them, and gather up that experience.

"We are lucky if you look at underage teams coming through, these players been involved in Fitzgibbon Cup and worked with development squads, so we have dovetailed players in and out, hoping people have the opportunity through different competitions and our training that they come up to the pace quickly."

Joyce is also familiar with Shefflin, having played on the same Fitzgibbon Cup team in Waterford.

"I was down there for four years and he was on the team. That would have been my first introduction to Henry. He went on to have a fantastic career. And then when he was coming back up to Galway, I was delighted to get involved up here.”

Joyce says both Shefflin and Kilkenny's Richie O’Neill, also new on the management team, have an enthusiasm for the game, an openness about what they are bringing to Galway hurling with their commitment coming from Kilkenny, as well as their approach. It has been fantastic working alongside him since we came together last November."

Leinster Hurling Championship:

Round one: Wexford v Galway April 16 Chadwicks Wexford Park 4.30pm

Round two: Galway v Westmeath April 23 Pearse Stadium (6pm )

Round three:Galway v Kilkenny May 1 Pearse Stadium (2pm )

Round four: Laois v Galway May 14 O'Moore Park (5pm )

Round five: Galway v Dublin May 21 Pearse Stadium (6pm )

Final: June 4 Croke Park 7pm


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