After the bitter frustration and disappointment of last year’s narrow defeat in the All-Ireland final to Kilkenny, Galway minor manager Mattie Murphy and his minor charges head to Croke Park this Sunday hoping to collect the 2009 title and gain a measure of revenge for last year’s defeat.
If the Galway minor hurlers win this clash, it will be the county’s fifth All-Ireland title in the last ten years, which is a very positive improvement for a county that had never won a title prior to 1983.
Remarkably Mattie Murphy has been the minor manager in four previous successes, 1992, 1994, 2004, and 2005.
Another All-Ireland title this Sunday would be a wonderful managerial feat for a man who cut his teeth back in 1989 with the county Galway U14 squad.
Galway defeated Waterford by 2-22 to 1-18 in the All-Ireland semi-final and the concession of 1-18 has to be a worry.
It is never easy to beat a Kilkenny hurling team. Nevertheless Murphy firmly believes that this year’s team are ready to give Kilkenny a serious examination.
“We have our homework pretty well done at this stage. If the right questions come up we’ll be fine but the important thing is not to panic if we get some surprises. Over 60 minutes you will always get a couple of funny ones thrown your way but I think we are ready for that. We know what we are about and the lads know what has to be done to get over the winning line.”
“These lads have been through the mill a few times already. They have played U21 and senior for their club and we have nine of last year’s squad involved and eight of them would have played in the championship at some stage, so lack of experience or stage fright shouldn’t be an issue for us.”
Kilkenny defeated a highly fancied Tipperary in the semi-final and Murphy is quick to point out that Kilkenny have eight of last year’s team involved this weekend.
“It is never easy to beat a Kilkenny team and while we would like to beat them anytime we meet, that is not realistic. You have to have belief and we believe that if we play to our potential, we won’t be too far away. We are not heading up with an inferiority complex or anything like that. In fact we are quietly confident that if we play as we can, we won’t be far away. We are pleased with our preparation and if we get the rub of the green we hope to be there or thereabouts.
“At this age group anything can happen, but we know we have a great panel of young men and young hurlers and we know that they will give it everything they have.”
Hot favourites with the bookies:
Galway have been installed as red-hot favourites with the bookies after their triumph over Waterford, but Murphy claims this is insulting to a Kilkenny team who took the honours last year.
“If I was doing the odds on this match it wouldn’t be far off a 50-50 match. There are never more than a few points between the sides when they meet and typically it is only one or two. The burden of expectation is worrying, but we cannot control what people think.”
“On any given Sunday a team needs things to fall into place on the day. We have prepared as well as we could have and now it is up to the lads to go out and show the country how good they are. We believe in them and hopefully they will do themselves, their families and their clubs proud this weekend.”
Stats on the All-Ireland minor hurling final
Previous All-Ireland final clashes between Galway and Kilkenny:
This will be the eighth (including one replay ) All-Ireland minor final clash between Galway and Kilkenny.
Ominously for Sunday, Kilkenny have won six titles, to Galway's one.
Kilkenny beat Galway by two points in last year's final while Galway's sole win against the black-and-amber in a final was in 2004 when they won a replay.
2008: Kilkenny 3-6 Galway 0-13
2004: Galway 0-16 Kilkenny 1-12 (Replay )
2004: Galway 3-12 Kilkenny 1-18 (Draw )
2003: Kilkenny 2-16 Galway 2-15
1993: Kilkenny 1-17 Galway 1-12
1981: Kilkenny 1-20 Galway 3-9
1973: Kilkenny 4-5 Galway 3-7
1931: Kilkenny 4-7 Galway 2-3
All-Ireland minor hurling - Roll of honour
19 - Kilkenny (1931-35-36-50-60-61-62-72-73-75-77-81-88-90-91-93-2002-2003-
18 - Cork (1928-37-38-39-41-51-64-67-69-70-71-74-78-79-85-95-98-2001 )
18 - Tipperary (1930-32-33-34-47-49-52-53-55-56-57-59-76-80-82-96-2006-2007 )
7 - Galway (1983-92-94-99-2000-2004-2005 )
4 - Dublin (1945-46-54-65 )
3 - Wexford (1963-66-68 )
3 - Limerick (1940-58-84 )
3 - Offaly (1986-87-89 )
2 - Waterford (1929-48 )
1 - Clare (1997 )