U-21 hurlers face a battle in Semple Stadium

Even as late as yesterday afternoon the storm over the exceedingly unfair fixing of the All-Ireland u-21 final between Galway and Tipperary for Semple Stadium in Thurles on Saturday evening at 7pm had not fully abated and Galway will fulfil the fixture under protest.

Galway Hurling Board chairman Joe Byrne has expressed his outrage and annoyance at the mean-spirited and unfair decision of Galway having to travel to play Tipperary in their own back yard.

Forcing a team to play on a pitch on which the opposition has trained all year, having one team and their supporters travelling for a few hours while the other gang can just push back their chairs and jump the wall to tog out is blatantly unfair - an appalling decision by the Competitions Control Committee.

Byrne pointed out during the week that hurling board members had been “hounded” by Galway supporters and clubs not to play the match.

It had been proposed to hold an emergency meeting of clubs on Tuesday night to discuss a possible boycott of the fixture, but officials instead decided to go ahead with the fixture.

"We are very unhappy with the way all this has been handled and we want all of that examined. But for now it is a matter on concentrating on the game on Saturday," said Byrne.

Despite the controversy, understandable annoyance, and blatant unfairness of bringing Galway down to Semple stadium to play Tipperary in an All-Ireland late on a Saturday evening, Anthony Cunningham, Brian Hanley and Pat O’Connor still have a job to do.

To defeat the home side and collect the All-Ireland u-21 title will not be easy.

Tipperary boss Ken Hogan can call on five of the men who played starring roles in the county’s defeat of Kilkenny last weekend at senior level.

Michael Cahill at corner back, Padraic Maher, who had a superb game against Kilkenny and revelled in his move into the centre-back position, Brendan Maher, Patrick Maher, and Noel McGrath will all line out this Saturday.

Each of those young men will be keen to add another All-Ireland medal to the one they collected last Sunday.

With a huge partisan home ground the Galway players will have to steel themselves for the fray.

Despite having to travel and acknowledging his disappointment with the fixture makers, Anthony Cunningham was in ebullient form when he spoke to Galway Advertiser Sport.

“We are focusing on our own job now exclusively. The fixture has been made and we have to get on with it. We very pleased the way our training has been going and we have had terrific competition for places over the past few weeks.

“Picking the starting 15 tonight [Thursday] won’t be easy. All the lads who came on against Dublin [Bernard Burke, Jason Grealish and Joseph Cooney] did really well and there is a great atmosphere in the camp. There are no superstars in our squad and we expect all the players to work their socks off for the cause on Saturday evening,” he says.

“The panel of players we have at our disposal have developed massively over the past few months and we are delighted with the progress a lot of them have made.”

The bookies have Tipperary as hot favourites and Cunningham is realistic about the challenge his team faces.

“We face a massive task on Saturday evening. Tipp have some very fine players and they will be on a huge high after last weekend’s deserved win in the senior final. We will have to have leaders all over the field to match their big name players and match their intensity too, but we believe that we can do it, and will do it this Saturday.”



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