GALWAY BOSS ANTHONY Cunningham has hailed the return of defender Shane Kavanagh and attacker Aonghus Callanan to their squad for the 2013 campaign.
Kinvara defender Kavanagh was a surprising omission in the overhaul to the Galway squad in November 2011.
While Liam Mellowes attacker Aonghus Callanan was unavailable last year as he was based in Australia.
Ahead of Galway’s seasonal opener in the Walsh Cup next Sunday against Carlow in Dr Cullen Park, Cunningham is pleased with the availability of the experienced duo.
“Shane brings a huge experience as a defender. He’s committed and has already played a number of years with Galway but wanted to give it one final go. Aonghus is very committed. He’s come back from Australia to get on the team and that’s great to hear.
“He’s in great shape and we’ll probably see him in some of the Walsh Cup matches and early league matches. I would have said to any of the players who are joining the panel to have patience as well.
“You’re not just going to step off a plane or whatever and get straight back to top level hurling in the month of January or February.”
Rory Foy, wing-back on the Galway U21 team that Cunningham trained to win the All-Ireland title in 2011, is also back available to the Tribesmen senior squad after spending time in Australia last year. And Cunningham is hopeful the captain of that triumphant U21 side Barry Daly, who previously featured at senior level under John McIntyre, will be back in harness after being dogged with injury in 2012.
“Barry had to have abductors and groin operations. He’d given it a year’s rest but that didn’t really come to fruition.
“So in November or December we decided to go for the operation. He’s fine, back in the gym. We wouldn’t have an exact date when he’ll be back full flat out on the pitch but we’d hoping the spring time.”
Regular goalkeeper James Skehill is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury but is targeting a St Patrick’s Day comeback date. Cunningham must also plan without players like Niall Burke (NUI Galway) and Jonathan Glynn (UL) who are tied to colleges for the pre-season competitions while St Thomas involvement in the All-Ireland club hurling campaign currently rules out David and Daithi Burke, Conor Cooney and James Regan.
Despite last year’s heroics which saw them win the Leinster title and reach the All-Ireland final, Cunningham insists improvement is necessary this year.
“Both players and managers are going to have to handle expectation second season. We have done a lot of work in the background for the last couple of months.
“Psychologically, we have got to deal with those pressures. For us, we have to improve, that’s the bottom line. We are going to put more work into training, more work into lifestyle, more work into coaching, the medical side and every aspect.
“You always look (at teams from other sports). We frequently met the Donegal players because we holidayed in Dubai. I know James Horan, we’d have met some of the Mayo players. You’d obviously here and see what some of the other hurling teams are doing. A lot of these players go to college with each other and I think that’s there as well.”