Galway hurling manager Anthony Cunningham is hoping his side can clinch a spot in the NHL semi-finals – if only to bridge the gap to their Leinster semi-final.
As defending champions, Cunningham is extra keen for the Tribesmen to put up a good defence of their provincial crown.
But with a possible 11-week break from their last league game against Waterford to their Leinster semi-final on June 16, Cunningham is anxious to hurl into the latter stages of the league.
"If you go well in the first few matches in the league, you should be hurling into April and May. It was a big help to have two very good matches in April (last year), and we then had matches in early June.
"This year we don't have a championship match until the middle of June, so we need something to keep us going – otherwise we have a long gap.
"It is difficult without matches, so definitely we'd love to be playing in the latter stages of the league," said the Galway manager (below), who came agonisingly close to leading his side to their first All-Ireland since 1988 in his first year as boss.
Last year a relegation play-off against Dublin went to a replay and after finding some good form against Anthony Daly's side, Galway catapulted themselves to an eventual Leinster final win over Kilkenny.
"The league is funny in that all the matches come together. We even have two within six days. We have one on Monday, March 18 and we have another the following weekend against Cork.
"It is difficult, you play a lot together and then you have quite a big break. There is three weeks up to the Leinster semi-final and maybe another couple of weeks to the final. So, it would be of huge benefit to us to get to the knock out stages of the league," added Cunningham.