Mattie Murphy’s Galway minor hurlers face Kilkenny in the eagerly anticipated All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday at 1.30pm in Croke Park.
There is much recent history between the sides. Galway defeated the Cats in last year’s All-Ireland final in a scintillating game on a score-line of 2-15 to 2-11, while Kilkenny held the upper hand over Galway in the 2008 final.
There is rarely much between the sides and next Sunday is likely to be similar, and Sunday’s clash has the makings of a really good game with some terrific hurlers on both sides.
Galway’s experienced and highly successful minor manager is optimistic his side can produce the goods and get back to another final. Nevertheless he is wary of the challenge that Kilkenny face.
“Kilkenny have seven from last year’s team and they will be very hard to beat. They always are. They have good players all over the field and they are very adaptable. For example, last year’s goalkeeper John Power is at full-forward this year for them. They have a lot of skilful players and we will have to be fully tuned in all over the field if we are to get back to a final.
“They have an experienced management team and Richard Mulrooney (Dicksboro ) will have them in good shape for the game. That said, we have worked very hard too and we have the likes of Daithí Burke, Mark Horan, Neil Keary, Shane Moloney and Matthew Keating who have the experience of playing in and winning last year’s final and some of the other lads saw action that day too. Our panel have done everything asked of them this year and they have worked really hard so with a bit of luck they will produce a big performance on Sunday.”
The Galway team will be announced tomorrow night, and there is a major injury concern over left corner back Conor McDonagh (Killimordaly ) who sustained a dead-leg in the win over Waterford and has not fully recovered.
The news is better regarding full back Darragh Burke (St Thomas’s ) who went off injured in the quarter final at half-time with a groin strain, and he is available for selection after coming through a trial game last Sunday.
Galway will look to big displays from the midfield duo Padraic Brehony and Conor Cooney and a half forward line of Albert Mullins, Jonathan Glynn and Jason Flynn who all raised flags against Waterford.
Both corner forwards, Neil Keary from Loughrea and Shane Moloney (Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry ), are dangerous and efficient if they get any quality possession and they have the skills and pace to cause the Kilkenny full-back line trouble.
Team captain and centre-back Daithí Burke (Turloughmore ) is a key player for Galway and, if he can play to his potential, he can be inspirational. He is likely to be flanked by Paul Hoban (Loughrea ) and Mark Horan (Craugwell ).
Mattie Murphy has been in charge of five All-Ireland winning minor teams with Galway to date (winning his first back in 1992 ), and he would love his charges to get back to another final.
But he knows better than anyone how tough that is going to be against a highly motivated and revenge-seeking Kilkenny outfit.
“With any team, but especially young players, a lot can depend on the way they perform on the day itself. Both teams have some fantastic players and they may cancel each other out and it will be a less well-known player or sub who can make the difference and be the star on the day. Myself and the rest of the management team (Michael Haverty, Michael Fogarty and Michael Flanagan ), fully believe in this bunch of players and we have no doubt that if they play at their best, they will be a match for anyone.”
*The game will be broadcast live on RTÉ 2 and Galway Bay FM.