Galway will be stronger this time

Kilkenny will be chasing their third win this season over Galway when the counties clash in the Allianz National Hurling League semi-final in Limerick on Sunday.

Kilkenny will be chasing their third win this season over Galway when the counties clash in the Allianz National Hurling League semi-final in Limerick on Sunday.

The Noresiders got the better of the Tribesman in the Walsh Cup in Freshford in January (1-24 to 0-15) and then they beat the same opposition in the League in Nowlan Park in early March (2-16 to 1-16).

The Connacht side were without their Portumna contingent on both occasions. They will be back this time following their success in the All-Ireland club series, beating Mount Leinster Rangers in the final.

Star man, Joe Canning, Damien Hayes and Andy Smith are sure to add class and substance to a squad manager, Anthony Cunningham and selectors, Damien Curley and Eugene Cloonan have reshaped considerably with an injection of new blood.

Galway, too, are especially happy with Limerick as the venue. The moment they qualified for the semis Mr Cunningham put out the suggestion that the games might be moved from the suggested site in Thurles to the Shannonside venue.

That is what happened. Clare and Tipperary will feature in the second semi-final, which will be played after the Kilkenny/Galway tie in Limerick to make up a very attractive double feature.

Galway will be without Niall Healy, who has been grounded by a bad hamstring injury. Otherwise they should be at full strength.

The mood in the camp is said to be bubbling, with new faces like Daithi and Rory Burke, Padraig Brehony and Cathal Mannion adding a freshness to the system, while under-age stars Conor Cooney - he was their best player in Nowlan Park - and Niall Burke have taken well to all challenges to date.

Kilkenny don’t need telling what new faces and changes can bring to the scene. ‘Change’ has dominated their season as the selectors tried different mixes on match days. The only player who didn’t see action was Michael Rice. That was a judgement call because he is slowly regaining condition after a number of muscle strains.

The mood is vibrant in and around the Kilkenny squad. You could almost touch the sense of anticipation. The Cats go to Limerick with one thing on their mind - victory.