Galway make first foray into Leinster

It is the day of reckoning for Leinster hurling - a new dawn as Galway enter the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship today for the first time.

It is the day of reckoning for Leinster hurling - a new dawn as Galway enter the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship today for the first time.

Many expect a comfortable Galway win but the sides involved have other ideas.

The average margin of victory between these sides over the past three Championship outings (qualifiers) has been a whopping 22 points in Galway's favour, but this statistic has clouded the fact that Laois have kept close with their Western colleagues until the three-quarter stage in many of their recent encounters.

Indeed Laois have beaten Galway in the league in the past few seasons, but there was no big Joe Canning around to torment the O'Moore's defence on that occasion.

The best known 20-year-old in the country says that Laois will prove to be formidable opposition this afternoon.

"It's a huge game for us and there is a lot of pressure on us going into Leinster for the first time and I think that's the biggest thing," he said.

"Laois will be a good challenge, last year they stayed with us for a long period of the game until nearly the end when we flattered ourselves in a small way by the final winning margin."

"Two or three years ago they beat us in the league as well so we won't take them for granted. We'll take each game as it comes."

Goalkeeper James Skehill, a colleague of Joe's on the Galway All-Ireland winning Minor-winning sides is ruled out of today's clash. Canning says the Cappataggle clubman is a huge loss.

"He's out for a month with a broken finger but we have guys well capable of filling his position. He's a huge loss and a brilliant goalkeeper but we have Colm Callanan and Eric Ward there who are well capable of filling his position."

Laois captain Brian Campion is a man who has had experience between the posts, but the Rathdowney-Errill clubman will fill the centre-half-back role for Laois this afternoon.

Campion says his side won't fear the Tribesmen this afternoon.

"In the last few years we have been competitive with Galway until the closing stages of the game. It's just their greater experience and composure which helps them tend to pull away," he said.

"They have that more big game experience than Laois does but we'll be going in on Sunday with nothing to lose, we'll be fully prepared and we have a great management and backup team.

"The lads are fully focussed, we are in our home ground, we'll be giving it everything and we'll surely give Galway a good welcome to the Leinster Championship."

Like Galway, injuries have been mounting up for Laois, but for Campion and his colleagues the same strength in depth does not exist as for their Western colleagues.

Key forwards Zane Keenan and Tommy Fitzgerald are just two players that have been on the O'Moore's treatment table in the lead up to today's encounter.

Campion said: "A county like Laois can't afford to be losing players of that calibre, but there's no doubt we could do without injuries.

"We have a strong enough panel and there are lads that will come in to replace those guys and they'll be giving it everything. Injuries are a part of sport and we'll just have to get on with it and move on and stay positive."

LAOIS (V Galway): T Doran; J A Delaney, D Maher, B Stapleton; M Whelan, B Campion (Capt), M McEvoy; J Young, J Walsh; D Peacock, W Hyland, O Holohan; J Purcell, J Rowney, E Jackman.

GALWAY (V Laois): C Callanan; D Joyce, S Kavanagh, O Canning (Capt); F Moore, J Lee, A Cullinane; K Hynes, A Smith; A Callanan, K Hayes, C Donnellan; D Hayes, J Canning, N Healy.

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