The Galway minor hurlers will get proceedings under way next Sunday at Croke Park when they take on a highly-rated Tipperary in the All-Ireland minor final (1.15pm ).
The Galway team management of Jeffrey Lynskey, Shane Cusack, Gavin Keary, John Commins, and the backroom staff, have made solid progress with this panel over the past eight months and they will be hoping that work will be rewarded by 2.30pm on Sunday.
Lynskey, who is a past pupil of St Mary’s College and a stalwart of Liam Mellows Hurling Club, has been with this group for the past three years and he knows their strengths and weaknesses inside out.
Twice they looked in serious trouble against Kilkenny in the semi-final, and on both occasions they showed tremendous mental fortitude to come out with a result. First, they earned a draw after extra time, and in the replay they kept on going with a late winning goal to get them to this stage.
A win on Sunday would be the county's first success at this grade since 2011.
Regardless of the result, Lynskey is thinking about these players and Galway hurling in a more strategic manner.
“What you are doing is putting down a pathway for them and it is about development at the end of the day. Seventeen of this year’s panel are young enough again next year for minor and we are trying to develop them to be the best young hurlers that they can be," he says.
"If you told me last February it would bring them to an All-Ireland final, I would probably have told you I would have been happy enough to win a semi-final or win a game. They are a terrific bunch, and they have bought into everything we are trying with them.
“They wouldn’t be regarded as a particularly strong group within the county because we have no superstars as such, but they are a team. And, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
Six All-Irelands since 1992
Galway have had a reasonable degree of All Ireland success at this grade, including six titles from 11 finals under former manager Mattie Murphy in the past 20 years - 1992, 1994, 2004, ’05, ’09, ’11 ).
It will not be easy to add another, and Lynskey, who teaches at Galway Community College, knows Tipperary will provide a tough challenge.
“Tipperary are an impressive and formidable team, and we are expecting a huge battle. They were very solid in their win over Dublin and with so many dual players, they are powerful and mobile. Guys such as Alan Tynan, Tommy Nolan, Cian Darcy and David Gleeson are very dangerous forwards, and our lads will have to be on red alert to keep them under tabs.”
Thankfully Galway have no real injury worries, and dual player Cillian McDaid (Monivea and Craughwell ) is available after recovering from a double fracture in his small finger.
“It is good to have Cillian back and he gives us options. The spirit is very good and the lads are really looking forward to the game.
“The fact that Galway are in the senior final too is a plus, but it won’t make our task any easier or harder. We will be judged on our hurling, and unless we produce a really good performance on Sunday, we won’t be happy.
"Our lads have a great attitude and are very positive young men. They have worked really hard all season, but so have Tipp, and it will come down to which side produces a big performance to see who wins.
“The occasion is the day and you need to embrace it. The lads have been fairly tuned in both days they have been here so far. It’s our fourth game when usually Galway minor teams have only played two and they can have an All-Ireland won.”
Galway will need to show their steel and resolve once again, and the spine of the team will need to produce big displays with the wing men rowing in too.
Full back Jack Fitzpatrick has been in splendid form. and outside him players such as Ian O’Brien, Jack Grealish, Jack Coyne, Thomas Monaghan and Evan Niland, have all impressed.
However, against Kilkenny it was a 20-man effort on both days with Cian Salmon, Cianan Fahy and Jack Kenny all coming off the bench to telling effect. Whether any of them will start on Sunday remains to be seen.
The never-say-die-attitude shown in their two semi-final games will be needed again this Sunday against Liam Cahill’s (Tipperary manager ) side.
Ideally, Lynskey’s minors will get the day off to a winning start, with one half of a maroon double.