IT won’t carry the same weight in the eyes of many as it has done in the past, but it’s another big All-Ireland hurling final on Sunday for Galway as Brian Hanley’s minor side get set to take on Kilkenny in search of an historic three in-a-row in Croke Park (throw-in 1pm).
In this the second year since the change in age grade from U-18 to U-17 at minor level, Galway aim to continue their unbeaten run which dates back to their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tipperary back in 2016.
To do so, they will have to overcome familiar opposition in the shape of Richie Mulrooney’s young Cats side, who welcomed Galway into this year’s championship in the All-Ireland quarter-final round-robin, a game which Galway won 3-16 to 2-16 despite a heroic Kilkenny fightback.
Since then, Galway have beaten both Clare and Wexford, while Kilkenny easily disposed of the challenge of Limerick to set-up a revenge mission against the Tribesboys, and Mulrooney will no doubt have his side gunning to ensure there is no repeat result when these two come face-to-face on Sunday.
Much of the talk in the lead-up to the game this side of the Shannon has surrounded the availability of captain Ian McGlynn, who was red carded in the semi-final win against Wexford and Loughrea full-forward Shane Morgan, who was carted off the field in that game’s dying embers.
Thankfully, McGlynn quite rightly had his red card rescinded last Thursday at a disciplinary hearing and the news on Morgan is positive too, though he will have to come through a couple of fitness tests to confirm his availability for Sunday’s clash.
See full preview in Tribune Sport.
Hurling semi-final is off
Tomorrow’s County Senior Hurling semi-final is off, after Gort GAA Club officially informed Galway GAA that they will not be fulfilling the refixed fixture against St Thomas’.
A statement from the Galway County Board today (Saturday) confirmed Gort’s position, and asked patrons not to attend Kenny Park, adding that ticket refunds will be issued this week.
Galway U20s aiming to end long All-Ireland title famine
Galway U20 hurlers bid to secure the county’s first national title at this grade in a decade when they clash with Munster champions Cork in next Tuesday’s All-Ireland final at Semple Stadium, Thurles (7:30pm).
Under the old U21 grade – changed to U20 in 2019 – the Tribesmen won 10 titles, but, despite a plethora of All-Ireland minor crowns in the last decade, they have failed to swell the tally. Indeed, their only All-Ireland final appearance in this time was in 2016, when they lost out to Waterford on a 5-15 to 0-14 scoreline.
The inability to transition minor successes to the U20/21 grade has, perhaps, become more acute with the seniors’ failure to build on their memorable All-Ireland win of 2017 but, in any event, Galway U20 boss Jeffrey Lynskey says the pressure to succeed – and the ambition – is no different from that in any other Galway set-up.
“Yeah, look, every Galway manager is under pressure to win matches and win All-Irelands,” he states. “It won’t be from a lack of prep or work on Tuesday night. What we got to do is make sure we are right ourselves, individually and collectively, and go out and represent Galway and put in a performance that hopefully will get us over the line.”
Most of the discourse in the lead-in to this All-Ireland showdown, however, has been dominated by Covid-19. Originally scheduled for Saturday, August 7th, the fixture had to be pushed out by 10 days when it was confirmed a member of the Cork squad tested positive for Covid. The HSE decision subsequently instructed all members of the Cork camp to quarantine.
As that story was breaking, Galway were also hit with a case of their own and they, too, have had their preparations disrupted by a similar scenario. “So, they (players affected) have been in isolation,” confirms Lynskey. “We have followed all protocols and worked with our team doctor and the HSE.
“All the lads are due back this week and you are hoping we will have a clean bill of health by Thursday (today). Look, I don’t think there is a team out there that hasn’t been affected by Covid. We were down eight lads the last week, but it gave us a chance to work with other guys, in particular the (2020) minors. So, we have been working away with them.”
While those forced to stand out with Covid issues only missed two sessions, Lynskey notes that they will still have to be monitored upon their return.
“The team will be picked on who is healthy and who is able. I spoke to the Dublin management and they found with the lads who they had coming back (from Covid), their energy levels weren’t there. So, we will be monitoring the lads closely over the next couple of sessions. It is not easy, but you just have to deal with it and adapt.”
All going well, it will be the hurling rather than any other issue that will take centre stage next Tuesday. After wins over Kilkenny (1-18 to 1-13) and Dublin (2-15 to 0-15) in the Leinster semi-final and final respectively, Galway can enter this clash against favourites Cork with a great degree of optimism.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the Galway-Cork preview, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Difficult draw for champs St Thomas’ in senior title race
COUNTY SHC champions St. Thomas’ will have it all to do to defend their crown after they were drawn in a group containing two heavy-hitters in Cappataggle and Liam Mellows – along with the team that last dumped them out of the senior championship in 2017, Killimordaly.
St. Thomas’ claimed a famous three-in-a-row last year when defeating a resurgent Turloughmore in the county decider and, while they have avoided the 2020 finalists, they have been pitted against last year’s semi-finalists Cappataggle and 2017 winners Liam Mellows.
Both Cappataggle and Liam Mellows have consistently competed at the business end of the championship in recent years, with Cappy pushing Thomas’ all the way in last year’s semi-final, with the champions just edging the contest on a 1-15 to 0-17 scoreline.
While St. Thomas’ also saw off Killimordaly by 1-23 to 2-16 in the quarter-final stage in 2020, they will still be wary of a Killimordaly outfit that dumped them out of the championship at the preliminary quarter-final stage in 2017.
In the aftermath of that defeat, Kevin Lally took over the managerial reins and in the ensuing three years St. Thomas’ cemented their status as one of the county’s top clubs with three senior championship title wins on the bounce.
Over the winter, however, there has been a change in management, with Lally and trainer TJ Ryan stepping down and former hurler Kenneth Burke, who has a growing reputation as a mentor and coach, taking over.
Burke is also a son of former manager John Burke and what he offers is a continuity from two previous managerial set-ups that have been hugely successful.
The 2021 senior and intermediate championships commence on the weekend of September 11 and 12 and, as always, they promise much.
See the full draw and analysis in Tribune Sport this week. The Connacht Tribune is now on sale in shops, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie