Experimental Galway still have too much for battling Faithful
Galway 2-19 Offaly 0-14
It's now a year since Galway lost a hurling match and as they chalked up their third win of the current league campaign yesterday, seeing off Offaly at Pearse Stadium, that unbeaten run looked like it could continue for some time.
Galway have used 30 players in their three league wins as Micheál Donoghue and his selectors widen options for tougher tasks ahead.
Few would have thought this day last year - as they nursed their wounds after Wexford came back to turn them over by 1-21 to 3-13 at Pearse Stadium - that they would go undefeated for 12 months.
And with further opportunity to experiment away to Dublin in a what is essentially a dead rubber before a likely promotion decider against Limerick a week later, Galway are moving through spring with a pep in their step.
"I think overall maybe a better performance than the last two," said Donoghue yesterday. "The lads worked hard for the last two weeks and we'll go in to another week's training going into the Dublin game.
"These types of games are not simple. We had two hard weeks of training, and we were very conscious that there would be a bit of tiredness, but the attitude was a big step up today and I know that the hurling will improve over the next few weeks. I think we are going in the right direction."
Progress for Kevin Martin and Offaly might be measured in other ways. Last year they shipped a 26-point loss in Tullamore to Galway in the league, a gap that was cut to 19 points in the Leinster semi-final.
They were in contention until early in the second-half yesterday in front of 5,355 fans until a second goal from Joseph Cooney and the dismissal of centre-forward Shane Kinsella put paid to any notion of a first win over Galway since 2001.
By then they were 2-11 to 0-8 adrift and all that remained to be decided was the margin of victory.
Offaly failed to find the net for the second game in a row, with Shane Dooley having a late penalty saved by James Skehill on a day when newcomers such as Conor Cooney's younger brother Shane and former All-Ireland minor winning captain Sean Loftus caught the eye.
Offaly, who lost Kinsella to a straight red after a tangle with Paul Flaherty, will now need to regroup for the visit of neighbours Laois next Sunday and manager Martin knows they are up against it.
"We have to win the next day. I went over to watch Laois on Saturday night and they went well. They can always up their game for Offaly.
"It's going to be a battle and a half at O'Connor Park. You have to win them and that's it. We are after working too hard not to win them. We have to get back on Tuesday night, regroup to get them focused on that game," said Martin.
The few positives for them was a bright start and staying with Galway when it was 15 on 15, while Tommy Geraghty shot three good points from play when he came on. They are definitely making progress, but the gap they need to bridge would seem to have got wider yesterday as Galway moved to a new level.
Scorers - Galway: J Cooney 2-1; C Cooney 0-7 (4f); C Mannion 0-5; S Loftus 0-3; P Flaherty 0-2; N Burke 0-1. Offaly: D Egan (3f), D Currams, T Geraghty 0-3 each; S Kinsella, S Dooley (2f) 0-2 each; D King 0-1
Galway - J Skehill 7; A Tuohy 7, P Mannion 7, S Bannon 6; S Cooney 7, G McInerney 7, A Harte 6; J Coen 7, S Loftus 8; J Cooney 8, C Mannion 8, P Flaherty 7; C Cooney 7, C Whelan 7, D Glennon 7. Subs: N Burke 7 for J Cooney (39), B Concannon 6 for Whelan (52), B Flaherty 6 for Harte (59), K McHugo for Coen (66), J Coyne 6 for Glennon (69).
Offaly - E Cahill 8; B Conneely 7, S Gardiner 6, T Spain 7; D O'Toole 6, P Camon 7, J Quinn 6; D King 6, P Delaney 6; C Gath 5, S Kinsella 6, O Kelly 5; D Egan 7, C Mahon 6, D Currams 7. Subs: D Shortt 6 for Quinn (36), T Geraghty 8 for Delaney (36), C Egan 6 for Gath (48), S Dooley 7 for King (52), J Bergin 6 for Kelly (65).
Ref - C McAllister (Cork)