U-21 defeat to Limerick provides a reality check

22 August 2015; Diarmuid Byrnes, Limerick, in action against Ronan O'Meara, Galway. Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling All Ireland U21 Championship, semi-final, Limerick v Antrim. Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co Tipperary. Picture credit: D?ire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

22 August 2015; Diarmuid Byrnes, Limerick, in action against Ronan O'Meara, Galway. Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling All Ireland U21 Championship, semi-final, Limerick v Antrim. Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co Tipperary. Picture credit: D?ire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

After the stunning victory over Tipperary in the All-Ireland senior semi-final and the euphoria of that win and  the minor success over Kilkenny, it was tempting to believe Galway were going to have it all their own way for the next few weeks in intercounty hurling.

Life is not like that however, and the Limerick u-21 hurlers brought Galway hurling supporters back to terra firma swiftly last weekend in Semple Stadium. They scored a deserved six-point win over Galway, Limerick 1-20 Galway 0-17, in front of 7,563, to progress to their first All-Ireland u-21 hurling final since 2002.

Galway have struggled at this grade in the past few years and have been beaten in their last four semi-finals.  The last time the county won the u-21 title was in 2010. 

With three of the senior forwards from the Tipp win in the starting offensive sextet, hopes were high Galway would match or surpass the Treaty County in the scoring states. Instead only 0-3 was registered from play by that senior trio.

Galway found it difficult to find their rhythm at the start of the game and were six points behind (0-10 to 0-4 ) after 20 minutes when Limerick senior star Cian Lynch did well to fire over a fine score and a good catch. 

It was Galway’s first championship game this year in the grade, whereas Limerick had already played and defeated Tipperary and Clare to get to the semi-final.  That reopens the debate about Galway's participation in the Leinster championship at minor and u-21 grades.

Despite their good start Limerick did not score for the last 12 minutes of the first half, and Johnny Kelly’s charges battled back valiantly.  Jason Flynn  was to the fore to level matters by half time, with both sides tied at 0-10 apiece.

There was little between the sides going into the last quarter, but Limerick were finding it easier to get their scores, while Galway were overly-dependent on Brian Molloy for scores from play.

However, it was Ahane’s Tom Morrissey who hit the key score on 50 minutes to really turn the tide Limerick’s way, when he showed real physical power and accuracy to hit the game’s only goal.

Galway were only three adrift when Morrissey got in for his green flag, but at 1-18 to 0-15, it was obvious Galway needed a goal to get back into contention.

No Galway goal arrived and Limerick did more than enough to emerge as deserving winners. They will face Wexford in the final.

At least there was no injury fall-out from the game for any of the senior panellists and that is a major positive for senior manager Anthony Cunningham.

For Galway hurling supporters and the respective team managements, the next 10 days are all about focusing on Sunday September 6, and the clash with Kilkenny (senior ) and Tipperary (minor ).

Galway: G Loughnane (Loughrea ), D Croinn (Cappataggle ), P Kileen (Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry ), B Keane (Clarenbridge ), É Burke (St Thomas ), S Cooney (St Thomas ) (0-1 ), S Sweeney (Loughrea ), K McHugo (Tommie Larkins ), D Nevin (Cappataggle ) (0-2 ), E Brannigan (Rahoon/Newcastle ) (0-1 ), C Mannion (Ahascragh/Fohenagh ), J Flynn (Tommie Larkins ) (0-7, 0-2 frees, 0-2 65s, 0-1 S/c ) R O’Meara (Portumna ), C Whelan (Kinvara ) (0-1 ), B Molloy (Kilnadeema-Leitrim ) (0-5 ). Subs: M Mullins (Gort ) for O’Meara (20 mins ), J Kennedy (Ardrahan ) for Brannigan (42 ), J Ryan (Loughrea ) for McHugo (51 ), B Burke (Killimordaly ) for Kennedy.

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