After the bitter frustration and disappointment of last year’s defeat in the All Ireland final to Kilkenny, Mattie Murphy and his minor charges head up the road again to Croke Park hoping to collect the 2009 title and gain some measure of revenge for that sickening loss.
Should the Galway minor hurlers win this Sunday, it will be the county’s fifth All Ireland title in the last 10 years, which is a very positive development for a county that had never won a title prior to 1983.
Remarkably Mattie Murphy has been the minor manager in four previous victories, 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 u-14 squad.
In the semi-final Galway defeated Waterford by 2-22 to 1-18. The team’s top scorer in that game was Niall Burke from Oranmore-Maree who shot 1-7. Other men who caught the eye in the scoring stakes were Ronan Badger 1-1, Richie Cummins 0-4, James Regan 0-4, Shane Moloney 0-3, David Glennon 0-2, and a point from Jason Grealish.
The concession of 1-18 has to be a worry, and, despite the win, Murphy conceded that the team may be re-jigged a little for next Sunday’s clash.
Back in contention are Salthill’s Tadgh Haran, who impressed on his introduction as a substitute against Waterford, and others who have been impressing the management team in training and are high up the pecking order are Turloughmore’s Matthew Keating and the Craughwell duo of Cathal Greaney and Mark Horan.
“It is never easy to pick a starting 15 for an All Ireland final and it is even very difficult to leave anyone out of the 24 players who get to tog out,” says Murphy. “ That said, we have a job to do and we will do it to the best of our ability.”
It is never easy to beat a Kilkenny side either, but Murphy firmly believes this year’s team are ready to give Kilkenny a serious test.
“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.”
The Turloughmore native who played in a county senior final with his home club back in 1972 when they were beaten by Castlegar, and then won two county titles in 1981 and 1983 (beating Castlegar in the final ) with Gort, pointed to his side’s experience as one of the main assets.
“These lads have been through the mill a few times already. They have played u-21 and senior for their clubs, while quite a few of them would have played in the All Ireland Vocational final for Loughrea this year. We have nine of last year’s squad involved and eight of them would have played in the championship at some stage, so a lack of experience or stage fright shouldn’t be an issue for us.”
Kilkenny defeated a highly-fancied Tipperary in the semi-final and boast eight of last year’s team involved.
“It is never easy to beat a Kilkenny team and while we would like to beat them any time we meet, that is not realistic. Nonetheless, 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 there abouts.
“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.”
Thankfully, Galway enter the contest with no major injury worries after concerns about the fitness of Richie Cummins, James Rega,n and Davy Glennon have all cleared up, and the team will be announced this evening after training in Kinvara.