Marathon summer of minor hurling pointing towards Galway
Incredibly this will be Leinster finalists Kilkenny’s tenth outing of this campaign
Galway’s Donal O’Shea: the full forward, son of former Tipperary manager Eamon, hit 12 points, all from placed balls, in the semi-final win over Dublin. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Minor Hurling Final: Galway v Kilkenny, Croke Park, Sunday, 1.0pm (ET if necessary) - Live on TG4
So much for taking some of the load off the minor grade. In the first summer of the reduced age limit, from under-18 to under-17, Kilkenny and Galway have played out 12 games between them in making Sunday’s final showdown, albeit heavily skewed down Kilkenny’s way.
In a not so minor marathon, Sunday’s final will be their 10th game, compared to Galway’s fourth, and it’s been quite the journey too. They lost the Leinster final to Dublin in the crazy 6-19 to 7-12 shoot-out, and also fell to Galway in the round robin quarter-finals, before rising against Limerick and then Tipperary, in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Galway have had it relatively easy in comparison, recording three straight wins over Limerick, Kilkenny and then Dublin, given they’re spared a provincial contest. They’re now poised for a first back-to-back minor All-Ireland since 2004-2005, manager Jeffrey Lynskey also guiding them to the 2015 title. Like their senior counterparts, they’re fancied to make a successful defence – although that’s far from straightforward.
Kilkenny manager Richie Mulrooney has been praising the resilience of his team, as well he might: after that 13-goal epic with Dublin in Portlaoise, they lost to Galway 1-21 to 2-11 in Thurles, and it was hard to see a way back from there. Instead they put 3-22 past Limerick, and held off a boldly determined Tipperary in the semi-final, defender Jamie Harkin earning the man-of-the-match for his calm throughout the storm.
Four years on from their last minor title, they have some typically dangerous forwards in Jack Morrissey and Ciarán Brennan, but their overall strength is their work rate. Mulrooney has been praising that too, and Tipperary certainly found it hard to match when the semi-final outcome was still on the line.
The problem for Kilkenny is that Galway’s strength runs deeper still. Their semi-final win over Dublin had all the hallmarks of a team reaching its peak, and while Dublin played below-par, Galway hit them with 2-12 to 0-6 in the second half, midfielder Jason O’Donoghue leading in spirit and confidence.
Goals from Niall Collins, Adam Brett and Dean Reilly kept them marching throughout, with full forward Donal O’Shea, the son of former Tipperary manager Eamon, hitting 12 points, all from placed balls, a wonderfully accurate asset to the team.
Kilkenny still top the minor honours, 21 titles in all, Galway boasting 11, and Kilkenny will certainly make history if they can win this, the 88th minor championship, after playing 10 games. But that might be just one game too many against such a fresh and competent Galway team.
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)