With the All-Ireland senior finalists now known after a dramatic weekend of action at Croke Park, the focus of the hurling world over the next few days will turn to Semple Stadium, as Galway hunt for yet more honours at both the minor and U20 age groups.
First up on Friday night, the minors will travel south to take on Leinster champions Kilkenny in their semi-final (7.30pm throw-in ), with a place in the final against newly-crowned Munster champions Cork up for grabs.
Galway won an unprecedented fourth title in a row only a month ago when defeating the Cats by 1-17 to 1-14 in the delayed 2020 decider, so it will be interesting to see if the 2021 crop can live up to the standards that have been set and maintained in recent years.
Somewhat surprisingly there are only two players who featured in that victory who are still eligible for this year’s campaign. Brian Hanley remains in charge and will only have Turloughmore goalkeeper Darragh Walsh and Darren Shaughnessy, whose late pass set up Liam Collins for the dramatic winning goal in the latest final, to call upon.
This may put Galway in a tough spot against a side which has already seen off Offaly and Wexford in Leinster, the latter only beaten by 1-15 to 2-10 as goalkeeper Alan Dunphy pulled off a critical save late on.
Next up on the agenda is the refixed All-Ireland U20 final between Galway and Cork on Tuesday night at the same venue (throw-in 7.30pm ).
Galway’s Leinster campaign saw them defeat both Kilkenny and Dublin to claim their second title at this level, with John Cooney’s outrageous goal in the final one of the scores of the year.
With a massive crop of All-Ireland minor winners from which to choose, Jeffrey Lynskey’s side is a potent blend of power and pace with plenty of scoring options.
Salthill-Knocknacarra’s Donal O’Shea is the dead-ball specialist, while St Thomas’ Oisin Flannery and Cappataggle’s Niall Collins will most likely complete the inside forward line.
Having secured a second Munster title in a row after a pulsating 1-26 to 1-24 win over Limerick, Cork were forced to seek a postponement due to all of their squad being deemed as close contacts of one positive Covid19 case within the group. How much of an impact this will have had on their preparations remains to be seen, but this team is the next in what seems to be a never-ending stream of talented hurlers the Rebels are bringing through.
They are looking for back-to-back titles at this level, something the county has not achieved since 1997-1998.
Pádraig Power led the line magnificently against Limerick, contributing 1-5 from play, but Pat Ryan’s side also has a strong spine to the defence in the shape of Dáire O’Leary and Ciarán Joyce.
It promises to be a thrilling encounter and both underage games will be broadcast live on TG4.
Elsewhere locally, the 2020 senior relegation play-off will take place this Sunday when Kilnadeema-Leitrim take on Kinvara in Kenny Park to see who retains their status. Also, the division one league final sees Tommy Larkins clash with Loughrea on Saturday, while Craughwell and Killimordaly contest the division two final on the same day.