The Galway minor hurlers, under the impressive guidance of Liam Mellows' club man Jeffrey Lynskey, produced a great display of pace, skill, style and substance on Sunday afternoon to see off Tipperary by 4-13 to 1-16 in the All-Ireland final.
It was a confident and polished display by a team that had been put on the ropes in their two semi-final games with Kilkenny. Those two high-octane clashes had the entire panel in serious shape to take on the Munster men, and it showed, as they produced an all-round performance that mixed elegant skills, heart and superb goal-taking.
Although Galway did cruise home at the finish, and win by six points, Tipp battled hard for the full sixty minutes.
The sides were deadlocked at 1-8 to 0-11 on 37 minutes, but following a stunning four-minute spell early in the second-half – in which Galway hit an unanswered 2-2 – there was only going to be one winner as Galway secured a 10th All-Ireland minor crown.
The hugely impressive Evan Niland at full-forward is a young man who made a big impact on the game.
Young enough for this grade again in 2016, he was named man-of-the-match for his display, nonchalantly hit over a free from well over 65-metres early in the second half, lighting the spark for Galway’s most important few minutes of productivity with their second goal arriving less than 60 seconds later.
Brian Concannon put through Liam Forde. who had just come onto the field of play. and with his first touch of the game, the Ardrahan man buried to the net with aplomb.
Another Niland free followed and Jeff Lynskey’s charges had one hand on the Irish Press Cup when Cianan Fahy blasted to the net on 40 minutes.
Galway’s third goal left the score-line reading 3-10 to 0-11 and though Tipperary kept plugging away until the death, Tommy Nolan landing a late goal, their faith was sealed when sub Michael Lynch struck Galway’s fourth green flag in stoppages.
Galway did not just have stars in the forwards, but defenders such as Shane Bannon, Ciarán Connor, Jack Fitzpartrick, Ian O’Brien and dual stat Caolm Mulry all played mighty games.
Captain Seán Loftus, who was nominally picked at corner forward, was imperious in his sweeper role and his energy and reading of the game was top-notch.
The sides were level on seven occasions in the first-half, returned down the tunnel at the interval at 1-7 to 0-10. However, when the Galway forwards rifled those two quick goals, the colossal Galway support knew they had secured the first leg of a possible double.
Team goalkeeper Darragh Gilligan also deserves mention for his fine save on 13 minutes to stop the Tipp lads getting the tonic of an early goal.
Team manager Jeffrey Lynskey was in ebullient mood at the Galway homecoming in Pearse Stadium on Monday evening, and as always he spoke with vision about this minor success just being part of an overall step in the players' careers.
We have seen great minors in the past, but the key now is help this team and next year’s crop develop, improve, and become top class u-21s and seniors.
Galway: D Gilligan (Craughwell ), C Connor (Kilnadeema-Leitrim ), J Fitzpatrick (Killimordaly ), S Bannon (Clarenbridge ), C Mulry (Abbeyknockmoy ), I O’Brien (Clarenbridge ), A Greaney (Craughwell ), J Coyne (Castlegar ), J Grealish (Gort ), C Fahy (Ardrahan ), T Monaghan (Craughwell ), F Burke (St Thomas’ ), B Concannon (Killimordaly ), E Niland (Clarenbridge ), S Loftus – Cpt - (Turloughmore ). Subs: L Forde (Ardrahan ) for Burke (37 mins ), C Salmon (Clarenbridge ) for Fahy (55 ), C McDaid (Craughwell ) for O’Brien (55 ), M Lynch (Kilnadeema-Leitrim ) for Concannon (59 ), R Malone (Oranmore ) for Greaney (62 ).