Galway were staring into the face of a third successive NHL defeat before getting their season back on track in fine style against neighbours Clare in Ennis this afternoon.
Back-to-back defeats against Cork and Limerick seemed to have left a hangover on Henry Shefflin’s Tribesmen as they were left in the blocks against a rampant Banner, fresh from firing six goals against Wexford two weeks ago.
Brian Lohan’s side fired over eight points in the opening 14 minutes – compared to a solitary score from the visitors – and it looked like they might run amok before Galway sprung to life.
Having allowed Clare do as they liked in the opening minutes, Galway pushed up on their men and made it a physical battle.
All of a sudden, Clare’s options started to dry up and the visitors were the better side from there to the finish with a 13-point turnaround, 1-24 to 0-22, as Conor Whelan’s 59th minute goal proved crucial.
David Reidy was running riot early on but TJ Brennan, a Fitzgibbon Cup winner with UL last month, quietened him when switching corners while Conor Cooney delivered a man-of-the-match display with 0-5 from play up front.
Tom Monaghan has continued his blistering form of last year and played a key role in midfield once again but it was Galway’s old guard that really stood up when the need was greatest.
Skipper Dáithí Burke made his first appearance of 2023 and it was not in his usual position of full-back. After leaking four goals to Cork in round two, it was clear that Shefflin felt that remedial work was needed on his defence.
Clare barely had a goal chance with Burke manning the No 6 spot – he also fired over 0-2 from play – while Gearóid McInerney kept Aidan McCarthy under wraps at full-back, where he was flanked by Brennan and Jack Grealish.
Burke had Pádraic Mannion and Joseph Cooney on either wing beside him and a dominant half-back line was the foundation for success in a victory which also saw 2017 All-Ireland SHC-winning captain David Burke make his first appearance in maroon and white for 2023 when coming off the bench in the second half.
David Fitzgerald was one of few to shine for the losers as the All-Star forward sent over 0-4 in a game which saw former Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly kept scoreless as he played a much deeper role than is customary for the Ballyea wizard.