Injury-hit Galway face Westmeath test

The Galway hurlers will field a much-changed team for their Leinster Championship opener against Westmeath in Mullingar tonight (throw-in 7pm).

The Galway hurlers will field a much-changed team for their Leinster Championship opener against Westmeath in Mullingar tonight (throw-in 7pm).

There are nine changes to the side that lost to eventual champions Tipperary in last year's All-Ireland SHC qualifiers.

James Skehill is stationed in goal, with Fergal Moore, Championship newcomer Johnny Coen from Loughrea, John Lee and Adrian Cullinane earning starts in defence.

Kevin Hynes gets the nod in midfield alongside David Burke, and Joe Gantley, Aonghus Callinan and the second debutant, Clarinbridge's Barry Daly, have been added to the Tribesmen's attack.

Free-takers Joe Canning (hamstring) and Ger Farragher (knee) head Galway's injury list, which also includes the likes of Iarla Tannian (thumb), Eanna Ryan (hand) and Niall Donoghue (calf).

Alan Kerins is unavailable for this game as he is currently out of the country, but the aforementioned Canning is expected to be among the substitutes as he has made a 'significant improvement' with his injury.

John McIntyre's men warmed up for the Cusack Park clash with a 1-19 to 1-13 challenge match win over Limerick last weekend and a hard-fought victory over the Galway Under-21s on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Athenry native Brian Hanley has made just one change to his Westmeath team for tonight's fixture.

Derek McNicholas, who scored two goals as a substitute in the recent win over Carlow, comes in at full-forward for the benched Alan Devine.

Eoin Price has recovered from a dead leg to take his place at wing back, with teenage star Cathal Scally, who leaked just one goal against Carlow, retained between the posts.

Hanley is hoping his young team put their best foot forward, stating: "It's another game for us and I'm a competitive person by nature.

"I think the challenge is to keep our style of play, stick to our system, and let the scoreboard look after itself. The most important thing is the performance we give."

The winners will face Division 1 champions Dublin in a June 18 semi-final, with the losers entering the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Meanwhile, the GAA have confirmed that the draws for the preliminary round and first round of the hurling qualifiers will take place tomorrow evening in RTÉ.

The results of the draws will be posted on the GAA's website, www.gaa.ie, at 5.30pm. There will be no live television coverage of the draws because of the broadcast scheduling of games that day.

GALWAY (SHC v Westmeath): James Skehill; Damien Joyce (capt), David Collins, Fergal Moore; Johnny Coen, John Lee, Adrian Cullinane; David Burke, Kevin Hynes; Barry Daly, Cyril Donnellan, Andy Smith; Damien Hayes, Joe Gantley, Aonghus Callinan.

WESTMEATH: Cathal Scally; Christopher Flanagan, Darren McCormack, Alan McGrath; Eoin Price, Andrew Mitchell, Philip Gilsenan; Niall Flanagan, Brian Smyth (capt); Ciaran Curley, Paul Greville, Brendan Murtagh; John Shaw, Derek McNicholas, Dan Carthy.

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