Galway bosses have defended their decision not to award All-Ireland champions Kilkenny the customary guard of honor before Sunday’s opening NHL game at Pearse Stadium.

Traditionally the All-Ireland winners are welcomed onto the field by their opponents in their first competitive outing of the new season.

But Galway, who lost to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland decider after a replay last September, actually followed the Cats onto the pitch in Salthill.

Galway manager Anthony Cunningham explained, “We were busy warming up to be honest, we were always tight for time and only got to the pitch at a later stage.”

Cunningham was delighted with his team’s 3-11 to 0-17 win over the All-Ireland champions said, “It was a typical first league match really, a lot of cobwebs probably on both sides.

“But we found it very difficult there to pull away when we were in pole position a few times, and our hurling was rusty. I suppose that performance won’t see us getting on past the next day - but we battled hard, that would be the big thing.

“We asked for big battle there, and typical start of the year and Kilkenny made little of the guard of honor snub, with boss Brian Cody more concerned about the result."

“I’d be disappointed. They were goals we shouldn’t be conceding,” he said.

“We missed three handy frees at one stage in the second half when we were going reasonably well but look that’s the way it meant but overall it wasn’t a bad display.

“It was a very competitive game from start to finish. Obviously the difference was they got three goals and we didn’t get any goals.

“The lads themselves will be disappointed to concede three goals -- that happens and at this time of the year things like that can happen when you haven’t much hurling done. We haven’t much done so we’ll be hoping we can tighten up on that.”