Tribesmen ease past timid Cork challenge
Galway 1-27 Cork 1-21
All quiet on the western front then as Micheal Donoghue, mindful that February rounds of applause come cheap, pushes away all efforts to tart this up as anything likely to echo deeper into the year.
He knows the conditions under which he works now. Maybe the worst thing Galway hurlers could do is try to shoehorn too much relevance into anything they do this side of summer, so beating a close to abject Cork with the mercury so low won't carry much truck in a county so inclined towards fatalism. Their new manager, thus, hoses down any sparks of silliness.
The two points, he suggests, represent "a big bonus", but the team "won't be getting carried away".
He represents men who scarcely need to be told that every road they travel this year will be heavily mined with, at best, scepticism, at worst, hostility. Until they take Liam MacCarthy across the Shannon, Galway's winter mutiny will curse them with angry voices.
That's a wretchedly stark predicament for men who have been just one step from the mountain-top twice in the last four years.
They dealt with Cork before 5,768 mildly engaged souls in Salthill yesterday every bit as easily as they did in Thurles last July, albeit the scoreline above disguises that fact.
Cork had one of those days they have become so susceptible to, hurling with bountiful touch and energy, but little enough bite.
They had the benefit of an 11th minute Seamus Harnedy goal to lead briefly but when, six minutes later, Niall Burke buried one at the far end after Joe Canning's clever bat down, you could almost phone ahead with all but the small detail.
Harnedy seemed to injure a hamstring just prior to his goal and was immediately replaced, Galway out-scoring their frazzled guests 0-9 to 0-3 in the closing 15 minutes of that first half. Donoghue's men carried that six points advantage into the break, their half-backs and midfield dominant and Canning, Conor Whelan and Davy Glennon moving well in attack.
Three Patrick Horgan points within four minutes of the resumption offered the illusion of a contest brewing, but Galway scored six unanswered points in the next eight minutes. There and then, they had their quarry.
There were some individual moments that amplified the fundamental difference between the teams.
Like Canning's opening score, the Portumna man bouncing off two Cork challenges as if they were just tackle-bags; like Padraig Brehony devouring Bill Cooper in possession when the Corkman thought he had the gift of time; like Whelan giving Christopher Joyce 10 yards but still beating him to a Greg Lally delivery to score a point he had no business scoring.
In matters of simple appetite and willingness to hurt, Galway always had an advantage. It made for a game that felt just mildly phoney.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy abdicated because of the bad habits he could not coax out of this Cork team and Kieran Kingston may have some sleepless nights with the same challenge. No question, they have some regal hurlers, but they just roll their supporters' emotions like dice.
Selector, Pat Ryan, declared himself "delighted" with the way they somehow stayed in the game and it's true Cork were just a late goal away from giving this contest an authentic pulse. But the scoreboard spun a lie. It flattered them. It gave them a shot their hurling scarcely earned.
Galway dominated the puck-out statistics and the sheer presence of men like Padraig Mannion, Lally and Aidan Harte was too much for a Cork attack that looked low in self-sufficiency.
Donoghue alluded to "tired legs" catching up on Galway near the close, but he had reason to be happy. "They're an honest bunch and we knew we were going to get an honest performance from them" he said. "But, look, it'll be a long year yet..."
Next up, he reminded us, they face the "huge task" of Dublin in Parnell Park. Galway lost a Walsh Cup semi- final to the same opponents by nine points three weeks back and, therein, will be the essential warning from Donoghue this week. Lack of consistency has been the Galway curse. And this is just the type of fixture with a history of expressing it.
Remarkably, yesterday's was Cork's ninth game of the year already and Ryan promised they would take "a lot of positives" from it for next week's visit of a Waterford team already armed with Kilkenny's scalp.
Kingston may not put it quite as gently.
Scorers - Galway: J Canning 0-9 (0-7 f), N Burke 1-2, D Glennon 0-4, D Burke and C Whelan 0-3 each, P Brehony and C Mannion 0-2 each, A Harte 0-1, G Lally 0-1f. Cork: P Horgan 0-9 (0-5 f), S Harnedy 1-0, P O'Sullivan and B Cooper 0-2 each, D Cahalane, C Murphy, L McLoughlin, A Cadogan, L O'Farrell, C Lehane and C McCarthy 0-1 each. A Nash 0-1 free.
Galway - J Skehill 7; J Coen 7, J Hanbury 7, P Hoban 7; P Mannion 8, G Lally 8, A Harte 8; A Tuohy 6, David Burke 8; P Brehony 7, C Mannion 6, N Burke 7; C Whelan 7, J Canning 7, D Glennon 8. Subs: D Collins 7 for Tuohy (h-t), J Flynn 6 for Glennon (55 mins), F Moore (not on long enough) for Hoban (66 mins), A Smith for Harte (66 mins).
Cork - A Nash 7; S O'Neill 6, C Joyce 6, S McDonnell 7; A Walsh 6, W Egan 7, D Cahalane 7; C Murphy 6, L McLoughlin 6; B Cooper 7, P O'Sullivan 6, P Cronin 5; A Cadogan 6, S Harnedy 6, P Horgan 7. Subs : L O'Farrell 5 for Harnedy (11 mins), D Kearney 5 for Murphy (48 mins), C Lehane 6 for Cadogan (50 mins), B Lawton 6 for Cronin (60 mins), C McCarthy 7 for O'Sullivan (60 mins).
Ref - B Kelly (Westmeath).