The Galway minor hurlers did themselves, their families, their management team, and their clubs proud last Sunday at Croke Park when they produced a tremendous performance to power past a highly-rated Dublin side by1-21 to 1-12.
It was a consummate team performance with no weak link on show and there were some marvellous displays.
The Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry trio were superb. Team captain Shane Moloney led from the front and shot 1-9. Midfielder Padraig Brehony was outstanding throughout and hit 0-4 from play, and commanding full-back Paul Killeen was terrific in the heat of battle.
Those three men have fantastic potential and, as they have shown in the Galway senior club championship, they are well able to mix it at adult level too.
Padraic Mannion (Ahascragh/Fohenagh ) was superb at corner back and out-hurled his direct opponent Cormac Costello with a majestic display of skill and bravery. Loughrea’s Seán Sweeney at centre-back also powered into the game when needed and had a fine hour.
Up front Jason Flynn notched three nice points and Jonathan Glynn did well at centre-forward, moving the ball on well and opening up the game.
The strength of the panel was impressive too and all five subs who came on looked like they would have loved to have been given some more game time and could have made significant contributions too.
In recent years there has been a major inconsistency with Galway senior hurling sides in the white heat of championship and it was 1988 when the senior side last lifted the Liam McCarthy Cup.
Indeed Galway hurling was unfairly labelled a “basket case” in a national newspaper last Sunday, but that comment reflects how some people see things in the county.
A fair and reasonable question is: How could such good minor teams over the past two decades not have moved on to develop into top-class title winning seniors? And any Galway supporter only had to watch the senior clash last Sunday between Kilkenny and Tipperary to see how far off the pace our seniors were this season compared to those two.
Dublin had arrived into the All-Ireland minor final on the back of the 6-19 they racked up in their semi-final destruction of Waterford. But they had also conceded 5-13 in that tie and those defensive faults were fully exploited by Galway’s potent attack.
Shane Moloney played a captain’s part in the victory and any Dublin indiscretions in the fouling department were punished ruthlessly. He also showed his class in scoring from play and he finished the game in emphatic fashion, gathering the ball 30 yards out, turning to race forward, and flashing a blinding drive past goalkeeper Cormac Ryan. It was the icing on the Galway cake and finished off an impressive and efficient display by Mattie Murphy’s outfit.
Hopefully, a fair few of this team will go on and gel with the youngsters of the past four or five years and bring Galway back to prominence in the adult grade too. Winning an All-Ireland minor last weekend and hopefully an u-21 title this Saturday would be very sweet, but these youngsters are capable of going on and doing well at senior level too, if they have the ambition, dedication and commitment to match their skill.
Galway team that won the 2011 All-Ireland hurling minor title: S Mannion, C Diviney, P Killeen, P Mannion, A Tuohy (0-1 ), S Sweeney, J Hanbury, P Brehony (0-4 ), D Higgins (0-1 ), J Flynn (0-3 ), J Glynn, B Lane, G O'Donoghue (0-1 ), J Carr (0-1 ), S Moloney 1-9 (6fs ) (cpt ). Subs: M Mullins for Hanbury (53 ), K Cullinane for Higgins (53 ), D Dolan (0-1 ) for O'Donoghue (56 ), P Flaherty for Carr (59 ).