Galway hurling manager Shane O'Neill said his primary aim on taking the job was to bring "freshness" to a "successful, seasoned" outfit. 

Following Micheál Donoghue's shock departure as boss, the 2017 All-Ireland champions were regarded as something of an unknown quantity heading into the current campaign but they gave a sharp reminder of their credentials with an emphatic victory over Wexford in the Leinster SHC semi-final. 

Davy Fitzgerald's side had been touted as slight favourites by the vast majority of the hurling pundit community but the 2019 Leinster winners were stripped of their crown in a brutally unceremonious manner on Halloween weekend.

Without a competitive game since they executed a remarkable comeback against Tipperary in the league in early March, O'Neill admitted he was unsure about how his players were shaping up. 

"We were delighted to get the whole season up and running," the Galway manager told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

"Back in March when we were due to play Wexford in the league quarter-final just feels like a totally different season ago.

"You actually don't know until the ball is thrown in how lads are. You don't know until the first few balls go.

"Even some of the lads didn't start particularly well but then came into the game very, very well. 

"It is a bit of an unknown when there's been such a gap. As the lads said, they've an awful lot of club hurling done but hurling together as a group is probably something we hadn't done." 

Conor Whelan was in especially impressive form as Galway demolished Wexford in Croke Park

Though the post-mortem was mainly focused on Wexford's no-show and Davy Fitz's incendiary post-match comments, Galway nonetheless caught the eye of neutrals, their display showcasing a potent mixture of skill and power. 

"We knew coming in as a management team it was an extremely skillful bunch of players. Very successful already, they're well seasoned. Mainly, we were just looking to bring a bit of freshness there.

"Hopefully, that is what we are bringing to the party. The players have worked very, very hard and the skill levels came to the fore."

On Saturday evening, Galway have a shot at winning a third Leinster in four years and their fourth since joining the province in 2009. 

Standing in the way are Kilkenny, who delivered a somewhat confusing Jekyll and Hyde display in their one-point win over Dublin. O'Neill is inclined to play up the Dr Jekyll part of the equation. 

"It's the biggest challenge we've faced this year. We're playing an unbelievable side. It seemed to be a game of two halves. I haven't seen the match. 

"The tally that they racked up in the first half seemed to be very impressive so we're expecting a massive battle in the Leinster final."

Follow Galway v Kilkenny (Saturday, 6.15pm) via our live blogs on RTÉ.ie and watch live on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player (coverage commences at 5.45pm)