Dónal Ó’Fatharta’s Galway minor side face five-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Kerry on Sunday at 1.30pm in Croke Park in what is the curtainraiser to the senior semi-final between Tyrone and Kerry.
Galway are aiming to reach the final for the second year running and will be hoping to go all the way this time, having lost out to current Kerry senior manager Peter Keane’s side in last year's decider.
Kerry have been the standard bearers at this age for the past five years, including current county stars such as David Clifford, Seán O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor and Dara Moynihan. The Kerry minors are unbeaten in their last 34 matches in a run which reaches as far back as 2014. This is a phenomenal stat which highlights the consistency at which the Kingdom produces successful underage teams.
Galway were impressive in their victory over Leinster champions Kildare in Pearse Park less than a fortnight ago. Despite coming into the game off the back of a devastating extra-time loss in the provincial decider to Mayo, this young Galway side showed serious guts and character to get the win and keep their dreams of an All-Ireland alive.
A fast start is essential this Sunday if Galway are to prevail. It showed against the Lilywhites - when James McLoughlin netted in the first minute, it provided the boost the players needed, and put their opponents under pressure.
McLoughlin has been impressive throughout this campaign, putting in a string of excellent performances in the middle of the park. He has demonstrated exceptional fielding, as well as the ability to take a score, and he will be key to the Galway charge on Sunday.
At the back Ruairi King has been a revelation, his driving runs forward have been a highlight of this season, and he has the defensive capabilities to match.
Up front the driving runs of Warren Seoige of Leitir Mór are sure to test the Kerry rearguard. Tomo Culhane will need to be in-form with the frees to give his side the best chance of winning the game. He has notched an impressive tally to date, and O’Fatharta and co will be hoping he can deliver again on the big day at headquarters.
It is sure to be an intriguing contest between two age-old rivals. If Galway perform to their potential, they can be a match for this Kerry side and put their foot into the All-Ireland final.