EOIN LARKIN hasn't seen Kilkenny's Leinster hurling final rivals in action this summer but, based on their recent scorefests, he is already expecting to face a "different Galway" on July 5.
By different, presumably, he also means more consistent and resolute ... but then these are the type of challenges that Kilkenny under Brian Cody have always embraced with relish.
"I missed (Galway's) Dublin game and I missed the Laois game," said Larkin, fresh from hitting the championship ground running against Wexford. "They're scoring well and their backs are coming up with scores as well, so we'll have our work cut out in two weeks' time.
"They're a serious team and the big question about Galway over the last couple of years was could they repeat a performance after a good performance? But they proved that against Laois, and they seem to be a different Galway team."
Last Sunday's 24-point semi-final rout, meanwhile, would suggest it's the same old ruthless Kilkenny. For Larkin, it was a welcome comeback after missing the entire league because of groin surgery.
Prior to obliterating Wexford, the Cats hadn't played competitively for 12 weeks. For Larkin the inter-county wait was even longer, dating back to last year's All-Ireland final replay.
"First game of the season and to do well is a huge boost, with the next match coming around fairly quickly. It's definitely a boost for the confidence anyway," the James Stephens clubman confirmed.
He added that lack of game-time is "always in the back of your mind, but I had a good bit of fitness work done so I knew I had a good base - and, having the last two or three weeks of training, I was happy enough going into the game."
This was reflected in his performance, with Larkin not alone clipping 0-3 from play (while having a first half 'goal' disallowed) but revealing a summer sharpness in both his movement and touch. Not bad for a comeback kid who turns 31 next month.
Following winter's glut of retirements, Larkin now qualifies as the second oldest 'Cat' in Cody's dressing-room - after Jackie Tyrrell. Changing times, and he won't be surprised if a few more newcomers follow the weekend lead of Ger Aylward, who was named man-of-the-match after scoring 3-5 from play on his SHC starting debut.
"He's been doing it for the last couple of years but he's been unlucky with injuries," Larkin explained. "He came back and got another injury. He's capable of doing that every day so I feel he justified his selection.
"Brian has always said the team is picked on training, and the jerseys were up for grabs the last couple of weeks. Who knows, there could be another two or three lads in for the Leinster final."