Galway U21 hurlers fall short against seasoned Limerick outfit

 Conor Whelan on his way to scoring his side's second goal during the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling All-Ireland U21 Championship semi-final match between Galway and Limerick at Semple Stadium in Tipperary. Photo by Piaras O Midheach/Sportsfile.

Conor Whelan on his way to scoring his side's second goal during the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling All-Ireland U21 Championship semi-final match between Galway and Limerick at Semple Stadium in Tipperary. Photo by Piaras O Midheach/Sportsfile.

The Galway U21 hurlers fell short in the last five minutes against Limerick in Semple Stadium in last weekend's All-Ireland U21 semi-final in front of a crowd of 6,524 - when they lost out on a score-line of 2-23 to 2-19.

The Munster champions scored four late points to edge out Tony Ward's team setting up an All-Ireland final showdown with Kilkenny - who hammered Derry in their semi-final. The final is fixed for Saturday September 9.

The Treaty County led by 2-13 to 0-14 seven minutes into the second half, however, Galway hit back with goals from Jack Coyne and a sensational goal by senior star Conor Whelan to lead by 2-17 to 2-15 after 47 minutes.

However, the heavy pre-match favourites who were playing their fourth championship match of the season, compared to Galway who were playing their first, shot eight of the last 10 points, including the last four in stoppage-time.

Little between the sides

There was very little between the sides over the hour, as evidenced by the fact that the teams were level 10 times, including half-time, and in the final minutes of normal time when an Evan Niland free restored parity for Galway.

However, the more battle-hardened and experienced Munster champions had the final say when the game was up for grabs.

Galway had some good early points from Dan Nevin, Thomas Monaghan, and Sean Linnane, and were level at 0-6 to 1-3 at the end of the first quarter. A Conor Whelan free left it all-square at 1-9 to 0-12 at half-time.

The Kinvara man's superb individual goal had Galway two up with 13 minutes remaining, however, Limerick's greater championship experience and some influential subs stood them in good stead in the last few minutes of the game, and they hit the last four scores from Aaron Gillane (0-3, two frees ) and Robbie Hanley to run out deserving winners.

To be fair to the Limerick lads, had they not hit four successive wides during the six minutes of stoppages, their winning margin could have had a healthier look about it. They were slightly the better and more balanced team as proven by the telling statistic that the winners outscored Galway by 0-8 to 0-2 following Whelan’s goal on 46 minutes.

Coming in cold to semi-final a drawback

Galway manager Tony Ward rightly flagged his side's lack of competitive games coming into the All-Ireland semi-final.

Limerick's three-game Munster campaign against Tipperary, Clare, and Cork - stood to them in the closing stages - when they scored four points without reply to edge past an untested Galway outfit.

Thankfully and not before time, the U21 inter-county championship is expected to be given a much-needed overhaul next year with proposals for change due to be discussed at Special Congress on September 30.

"Coming in stone cold is a problem, especially when you are playing a quality side who have three games under their belts," was the view of the Galway manager.

"I am very proud of the performance of the lads. Nobody gave us much of a chance coming here and we did ourselves proud."

Galway: D Gilligan (Craughwell ), D Cronin (Cappataggle ), C Cosgrove (Ardrahan ), I Fox (Sarsfields ), J Grealish (Gort ) (0-1 ), J Mooney (Loughrea ), S Loftus (Turloughmore ) (0-1 ), K McHugh (Tommy Larkin’s ) (0-1 ), D Nevin (Cappataggle ) (0-2 ) (1f ), B Concannon (Killimordaly ) (0-4 ), S Linnane (Turloughmore ) (0-1 ), T Monaghan (Craughwell ) (0-4 ), C Whelan (Kinvara ) (1-3, 0-1 free ), C Burke (Athenry ), J Coyne (Castlegar ) (1-1 ).

Subs: C O’Connor (Leitrim-Kilnadeema ) for Fox (20 mins ); E Niland (Clarenbridge ) (0-1, 1f ) for Burke (36 ); F Burke (St Thomas’ ) for Mooney (52 ); G Loughnane (Loughrea ) for Coyne (56 ); R Elwood (Liam Mellows ) for McHugo (57 ).

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