Galway took their eighth ESB All-Ireland minor hurling title in impressive fashion with a four-point win over Kilkenny at Croke Park on Sunday.
It was sweet revenge for the Tribesmen who, avenging last year’s final loss to the same opposition, produced a real team effort with seven players on the score-sheet.
In his 10th year as Galway minor boss Mattie Murphy was in buoyant mood, reflecting on his fifth All-Ireland success.
"They're all sweet, but this is exceptionally sweet. We had one hand on the cup last year and it was stolen from us," he stated.
The Gort native was impressed with his side whom he felt showed great leadership qualities throughout the championship.
"Donie Fox tore his hamstring in the Antrim game and he struggled for fitness against Waterford, but he was a huge player for us today. Brian Flaherty was strong at centre back and he didn't step back from anything. Shane Moloney has been doing it at all levels. I wouldn't like to put any misfortune on him, but he's a rare find. In fact, he's not a find because everyone knows about him.”
Both sides gave their all in a keenly-contested encounter, with the result in doubt until the closing stages. There was little to separate them in the opening stages. Galway drew first blood with Donie Fox slotting over the first of his two points. However this score was quickly cancelled by a Cillian Buckley effort for the Cats. Neither side gave an inch early on, and the game was tied on three occasions in the opening five minutes before Galway eventually exerted dominance.
The Tribesmen did not have long to wait for their first goal, which came following an excellent team move. Galway ran rampant at the Kilkenny defence, with Ronan Badger squaring the ball off to the in-rushing Richie Cummins who powered it to the back of the net with ease.
Kilkenny responded with a Walter Walsh point, and although Galway captain Cummins quickly cancelled this score, the Cats hit a purple patch soon after. Martin Gaffney's ninth-minute goal was worth the wait. The Dicksboro clubman gave little change to the Galway defence as he carved through before planting a powerful shot past goalkeeper Fergal Flannery. Cathal Kenny followed up with a quick-fire point as Kilkenny took the lead, but they were not to score for the remainder of the half as Galway regained the initiative once more.
Centre-half-forward Niall Burke was central to Galway's revival with four points before Richie Cummins finished the half with his second goal in injury-time, ensuring a 2-09 to 1-05 interval lead.
The Cats began the second half in determined fashion with quick-fire points from Gaffney and Ollie Walsh before netting their second goal. Cillian Buckley cut through the Galway defence, finishing his bursting run from 50 metres before planting the ball in the Galway net. A Canice Maher point cut the deficit to the minimum by the 41st minute, but this was as close as Kilkenny would get.
Galway, who always had the edge, kept on top - just. Fox struck a point before Gaffney knocked over a free to maintain the intensity. Glennon fired over another inspirational point from distance, but once again Kilkenny responded with a Buckley score.
When Gaffney missed a relatively simple free, Galway capitalised. Maloney struck two frees, Glennon added a great point to extend the lead to four, and as Gaffney and substitute Tadhg Haran traded scores, Galway were already starting to celebrate a deserved victory over the defending champions.
Kilkenny: J Power; J Lyng, D Kenny, I Duggan; J Gannon, R Doyle, L Harney C Kenny (0-2 ), O Walsh (0-1 ); G Brennan, S Kehoe (0-1 ), C Buckley (1-2 ); M Gaffney (1-3, 3f ), W Walsh (0-1 ), C Maher (0-1 ). Subs: G Aylward for W Walsh (52 ); P Walsh for G Brennan (56 ).
Galway: F Flannery; J Coen, D Burke, C Burke; M Keating, B Flaherty, J Cooney; J Regan, D Glennon (0-2 ); D Fox (0-2 ), N Burke (0-4, 2f, 1 65 ), J Grealish (0-2 ); R Cummns (2-1 ), R Badger, S Moloney (0-3, 1f, 1 65 ). Subs: M Horan for Keating (20 ); T Haran (0-1 ) for Badger (45 ); N Keary for Grealish (52 ).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath ).