Murphy's men face formidable task
MATTIE MURPHY hadn’t seen a Galway hurling crowd like it at Croke Park since the 1980s.
The county’s successful minor hurling team manager was present at GAA HQ last Sunday as Anthony Cunningham’s seniors advanced to a first All-Ireland final since 2005. But minor finals for Murphy and successive teams are ten-a-penny at this stage.
This is Murphy’s 12th season at the helm, the fifth year of his third spell in charge. In that time, he’s masterminded six All-Ireland successes and Galway are reigning champions as they prepare to face Tipperary. Galway’s support will, of course, be heavily outnumbered by Tipp fans tomorrow.
And Murphy, a former senior team manager with Galway, says he was taken aback by the travelling hordes from the west six days ago.
“Huge Galway crowd,” he reflects. “You had to go back to the 1980s to find a bigger Galway following.
“But the vibe over the previous couple of weeks was that a lot of people would have fancied Galway’s chances of winning. Cork don’t strike fear into the hearts of many Galway people.
“I would have been a small bit more worried if Waterford had come through.”
Murphy’s thoughts are now fully focused on the prospect of the minors’ clash with Munster champions Tipperary.
Two years ago, the counties met in an All-Ireland U-16 final. John McGrath, younger brother of Tipp senior star, Noel, hit 0-11 as the Premier County ran out comprehensive 2-20 to 0-9 winners.
“Unless we have improved in two years, we’re in trouble,” Murphy accepts.
But Galway’s first outing in this year’s minor championship, at the quarter-final stage, saw them hammer Wexford 4-20 to 2-11.
“We always find that no matter how well you play in the quarter-final, the semi-final is a huge step up,” Murphy adds.
Tipp manager William Maher was captain in 1996 when his team beat Galway in the minor final; he was there again a year later when they lost a semi-final to Galway.
“I’ve a 50 per cent record against Galway. They’re a serious side at minor level but if we can spring a performance, we’ll see where that leads us . . . To go to Croke Park and be involved with a Tipperary minor team. That’s what I’ve always dreamed of since I was small.” said Maher.
GALWAY: M O’Conghaile; D O’Donoghue, P Killeen, E Burke; S Caulfield, S Sweeney, B Keane; S Collins, C Mannion; B Murtagh, D Dolan, J Flynn; R O’Meara, M Mullins, B Molloy.
TIPPERARY: Paul Maher; R Maher, M Breen, J Peters; T Fox, T Hamill, B Heffernan; B Maher, J McGrath; T Gallagher, J Shelly, S O’Brien; S Cahill, K Slattery, M McCarthy.