Galway manager Shane O’Neill expects to have big guns such as Joe Canning, Daithi Burke and captain Padraic Mannion back for next Sunday’s showdown with All-Ireland champions Limerick at Pearse Stadium.
Canning and Burke were among several players rested for the opening game, with Mannion troubled by an ankle injury, but O’Neill expects to be picking from a full hand for the clash with his native county.
“Yeah, they are all fine. We just need to be able to manage, I suppose it’s five league games in six weeks so we are looking at game time, where guys are fitness wise etc. We just had to be very conscious of that.
“We have a few niggles over the last three weeks that we have been back but nothing major. You would obviously expect to have some when guys haven’t had the contact over such a long period.”
The tempo of the season will crank up a few levels next weekend but O’Neill said they are ready to meet these sort of challenges, particularly as players worked hard on their strength and conditioning over the past few months.
“Well, they were in great form coming back, they were in extremely good condition. Obviously, any guys who are on their own, I assume were using a ball wall, others were in twos and threes depending on who is in the house.
“It was really just to get the expansive, long striking, thank kind of thing into it. So, we are relatively happy, absolutely.
As expected they were able to boss matters at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar on Saturday without too much fuss, with the sharpness of Cathal Mannion in midfield particularly noticeable. He crowned a magnificent display with a bullet pass to send his cousin Brian Concannon in for Galway’s fourth goal just after the restart but by then all that remained to be decided was the margin of the victory.
Only Galway’s full-back line and goalkeeper in the starting 15 did not score as points were landed from all angles and distances as Westmeath struggled to contain them. All six Galway forwards scored by the 15th minute and they were out of sight when they led 3-18 to 0-10 at the interval.
Stand-in captain Conor Whelan got the opening goal after a long ball from Cathal Mannion and then Concannon set up Niall Burke for the second after 18 minutes. Evan Niland and Mannion combined to send the unrelated Ja Mannion in before the break.
Westmeath battled gamely. Niall O’Brien hit seven frees and Ciaran Doyle’s second point was the score of the day but the one-way traffic continued after the restart.
Galway goalkeeper Eanna Murphy, who put his Croke Park puckout nightmare behind him to execute pinpoint deliveries, was hooked as he tried to clear and Niall Mitchell tapped home a Westmeath goal.
But Galway finished strongly with Conor Cooney getting their fifth goal before blasting a penalty over the bar in the closing stages as they eased to a 30-points win to get their 2021 season up and running.