IT’S an all-new minor championship and an all new minor team but this year’s crop of Galway underage stars picked up where last year’s talented squad left off with a comprehensive 11-point victory over Limerick in the first of two quarter-final round-robin games.
As ever, it was a case of stepping in to the unknown somewhat for players, management and supporters alike this past weekend and as is so often the case, Galway made little of this being their first competitive game of the season against a Limerick side who won three of their four Munster championship qualifying games, topping the table, before coming unstuck against Tipperary in the decider.
Unlike other years, there really was very little to go on when assessing this Galway side prior to throw-in, as due to the change in grade from U-18 to U-17, there were no survivors of last year’s All-Ireland winning side to build this team around.
Instead, manager Jeffrey Lynskey, in his fourth season in charge and this year backed by the new management team of Kenneth Burke, Niall Murray and Aidan Ryan, called upon a number of the Pres Athenry team which reached this year’s All-Ireland PPS final, namely goalkeeper Paddy Rabbitte, Ian McGlynn, Shane Quirke and Adam Brett.
South and North Galway were also well represented with North Galway clubs Ballygar, Sylane, Annaghdown and Ballinasloe all having one of their own impress in the Galway starting 15.
After a low-scoring opening quarter where both sides took time to feel each other out, Donal O’Shea, son of former Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea, struck for an excellent goal on the stroke of half-time after Oisin Flannery (Padraig Pearses) knocked down an Evan Duggan line ball in to the path of the on-rushing O’Shea, to help Galway to a healthy 1-11 to 0-6 interval lead.
Cormac Ryan opened the scoring for Limerick after 90 seconds but that was to be the only time in the game Galway trailed with Adam Brett quick to reply before the lively Dean Reilly handed Galway the lead for the first time.
Limerick were giving as good as they got in the early exchanges and Bob Purcell, who posed problems in that period, levelled the tie before Jason O’Donoghue, a sweet score off his left, and Cathal O’Neill traded points once more.
The young Tribesmen then had their first period of sustained pressure in the game landing four points on the spin, two each by O’Shea (both frees) and Sylane man Keelan Creaven and though Limerick stayed in touch courtesy of points by Micheal Martin and O’Neill (two), O’Shea’s goal along with points by Oisin Flannery (Padraig Pearses), Creaven, Reilly and O’Shea again, had Galway in command at the break.
Limerick came out for the second period fired-up and despite noticeably taking their foot off the pedal, Galway limited the Shannonsiders to two solitary frees in the opening ten minutes of the half with Shane Jennings, Sean Neary and Shane Quirke superb.
In defence, Galway remained astute and commanding throughout, but it was in the other half of the field where the problems lay in the second period, something noted by Lynskey in his post-match interview, as Galway fell off the pace.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.