Canning to return for Galway in semis
GALWAY are banking on Joe Canning being fit for their Leinster SHC semi-final against Offaly in two weeks' time - but manager Anthony Cunningham is liable to more worried by his defence after yesterday's nine-goal scorefest against Westmeath in Mullingar.
The Tribesmen eventually prevailed by 5-19 to 4-12 - a relatively healthy ten-point margin - but the concession of four second half goals to the Midland underdogs raises early-summer questions about their long-term All-Ireland ambitions.
Getting Canning back on the field will be the first priority, though: the former All Star wasn't risked because of a shoulder injury shipped in a practice match against Clare last week. "He has improved a good bit but, medically, they were saying not to chance him," Cunningham explained.
"We're hopeful he'll be back for the next day.
"He has a ligament strain on the AC joint ... we could probably have played him if it was later on in the championship, but we want to give him as much time as we can."
Galway looked set for a landslide victory yesterday when leading 1-12 to 0-4 at the break, the goal coming from James Regan, but they were actually outscored (4-8 to 4-7) in the second half by a Westmeath side that never gave up.
Further Galway goals came from David Burke (two), Cyril Donnellan and Andy Smith, while Joe Clarke, Brendan Murtagh (from a free) and minor star Niall O'Brien (who top-scored with 2-7) found the net for Westmeath.
"They (Westmeath) have tremendous work done under Brian (Hanley) and that was evident in their stick work, and the scores they got, some of which were excellent," said Galway boss, Anthony Cunningham.
"We leaked a few in the defence, which we'll have to sharpen up on. It was a combination of maybe one or two (goals) that we could have kept out and some good play by Westmeath.
"But there's no point in getting carried away. The big score we clocked up is a positive, but there's loads of work to do, and we are facing Offaly, which will be some battle."
Galway will face Offaly in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise on Sunday, June 17, while Westmeath play Wexford in the All-Ireland qualifiers on June 23.