Skehill eyes redemption as Tribesmen bid to lower Banner hopes
GALWAY goalkeeper James Skehill admits that Sunday's All-Ireland SHC quarter-final against Clare is a golden opportunity to make amends for a disappointing Leinster campaign.
Having struggled to get past Laois in the semi-final, last year's provincial champions failed to fire in the final against Dublin and slumped to a 12-point drubbing. Cue, an avalanche of criticism.
Consistency of performance, year-in year-out, has been lacking from the Tribesmen and Skehill says that the team accept they must do much better.
"It's obvious we didn't do ourselves justice in the Leinster final," the Galway No 1 reflects.
"The result spoke for itself. Dublin were by far the superior team. They beat us fair and square.
"But this Sunday, I won't say it's redemption, but it's a game that needs to be won for us to progress. Our main aim is to win the All-Ireland and to do so, we have three games to win – this is step one."
With Dublin and Limerick leading a new wave of challengers to Kilkenny, the consensus is that Galway have not only failed to build momentum from last year, but have actually gone backwards.
Skehill, predictably, doesn't buy into that theory. Acknowledging standards appear to have levelled off, he feels that the men from the West have more to offer.
"Now more than ever, hurling has become a level playing field," he says.
"Previously you had Kilkenny and Tipp as the top two, you may have had a third and a fourth and everyone else was below, but now you've got a top five or six.
"So, for someone to say we've slumped so badly from last year, well we obviously didn't win the Leinster final, so we haven't achieved that goal, but I wouldn't say we've gone back too far.
"We're still quality hurlers. It's just about getting everything right on the day."
This will be imperative if they're to get the better of a young Clare side who underlined their high fitness levels by blitzing Wexford in extra-time last time out.
"Clare are a top side, they've got some of the best young forwards around," adds Skehill, who was coached by Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald at Limerick IT.
"I think he's as passionate now as he was when he was playing the game and that'll feed into the Clare players. They'll bring that at us – all we can do is match it."