Galway's eyes trained on a much bigger prize
GALWAY crushed UCD on the all-weather pitch at Belfield yesterday. However, the players' work didn't end there as after the final whistle they were brought out on to the grass for a series of 100m runs across boggy ground to round off their afternoon.
A game which was totally one-sided, with Galway 1-6 to 0-2 up after only 10 minutes, hardly revealed anything of great benefit to the new management team of Anthony Cunningham, Mattie Kenny and Tom Helebert, but they made as much use of the fixture as they could.
In relation to the post-game sprinting session, Cunningham commented: "UCD probably weren't at their strongest today but we just took it that it's a day of work for us and we'll be looking forward to improving further bits that we can from it and driving on.
"We're playing again next Sunday (Laois in the semi-final of the Walsh Cup) so that's what we want to be doing -- playing matches at this time of the year getting ready for a huge league campaign."
The former county star and his management team, which brought Galway the All-Ireland U-21 title last year, were happy enough with their first competitive outing in charge of the senior side.
"We want to play to a pattern and we want to improve. It's a co-share with me, Matt and Tom, and they'll be driving their message every day with these guys," said Cunningham.
The visitors were 4-16 to 0-2 up at half-time with goals by Joe Canning, Conor Cooney, Damien Hayes and David Burke highlighting the Galway dominance.
Further goals in the second half by Iarla Tannian and debutant Conor Cooney again -- he notched up 2-6 in total, including two from '65s -- plus another nine points completed the rout of the students.
Ironically, were it not for some fine saves in each half by UCD goalie Jamie Ryan, a Galway man, the scoreline would have been even more embarrassing for UCD.
Tipperary star Noel McGrath managed to get the UCD goal late in the match, but this was a game to forget for the Belfield team.
Scorelines like this don't enhance the argument that the college sides should feature in the pre-season competitions, but Galway availed of the chance to get their team in the right mood for the 2012 campaign.
Speed of movement in terms of pacey running and quick movement of the sliotar, particularly from the half-backs through to the danger man up front, was the order of the day.
Joe Canning played for just the first half but scored 1-6 in the process, and, like the rest of the team, looked sharp and eager.
Selector Tom Helebert commented: "Our focus in training is our speed of hurling. Galway's history is fast hurling and we have to bring that level of speed up to scratch for what's ahead of us in the league campaign and later on in the year.
"That's the way our training has been directed so far.
"Obviously weather plays a factor as you try to hone your skills but the lads have responded and we're trying to get lads to just basically hurl faster. It's about using the ball properly and smartly as best as you can.
"It's not going to be perfect every day but when they're in possession, we want them taking the right options. When not in possession, it's about taking the right options as well and that's just application."
That requirement would explain why Tannian, who played very well, got a minor roasting from the sideline as he ploughed forward into a screen of defenders and lost possession.
He was immediately advised that he had four players in space available for a pass and would he please try and be more aware of that in the future -- or words to that effect!
Cunningham conceded that it's a busy time for him right now, with his senior hurling and U-21 commitments with Galway and the All-Ireland club football semi-final with Garrycastle to come in three weeks' time.
Galway seniors are training on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, while Westmeath champions Garrycastle, who are gearing up to play near neighbours St Brigid's of Roscommon, are booked in for Wednesday and Friday, with probably a match at the weekend.
Cunningham doesn't bat an eyelid at the commitment.
"It's seven days a week, but it's the same for these two gentlemen here. We've a great set-up in both camps. The two boys here (Kenny and Helebert) are serious coaches and they take a huge piece of the work here.
"We share it and that's the way it's going to be right through the year. It's just busy right now, with the football match in the middle of February, but we're looking forward to that too," said Cunningham.
Scorers -- Galway: C Cooney 2-6 (0-2 '65'), J Canning 1-6 (0-2 '65'), D Hayes 1-3, I Tannian 1-2, D Burke 1-0, J Regan 0-4, A Smith 0-2, J Coen, C Donnellan 0-1 each. UCD: N McGrath 1-1, C Kenny 0-4, C Allis 0-2, K O'Loughlin 0-1.
Galway -- J Skehill; D Connolly, D Collins, F Moore; B Flaherty, T Og Regan, P Huban; A Smith, C Donnellan ; D Burke, I Tannian , C Cooney; J Coen, J Canning, D Hayes. Subs: J Regan for J Canning (h-t) M Leydon for T Og Regan (h-t); P Shiel for F Moore (h-t), E Ryan for D Burke (45); D Cooney for P Huban (55).
UCD -- J Ryan; D Nash, O Gough, J Dougan; J Lyng, D O'Sullivan, S Norton; D Plunkett, C Kenny; D Fox, N McGrath, C Allis; F Clabby, J McMahon, K O'Loughlin. Subs: J Gilligan for O'Sullivan (40); M McCaffrey for J Lyng (50); J Hoyne for K O'Loughlin (67); J McMahon for J Dougan (67).
Ref -- J Owens (Wexford)