As ever, the expectations are high when a county minor hurling team coached by Mattie Murphy heads into championship action, and this year is no exception.
This Saturday morning, his 2012 crop will board their bus and head up the motorway to Tullamore, to face Wexford in O’Connor Park (1.30pm ) in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
There is considerable experience in this year’s squad and Murphy can call on three of his starting 15 from last year, and five others who played championship at some stage in 2011.
In total there are 12 from last year’s panel available for selection again this season.
Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry’s impressive defender Paul Killeen is expected to line out again this year at full-back, while Seán Sweeney (Loughrea ) will probably man the centre-back position.
Wing-forward Jason Flynn (Tommie Larkins ) is the third player who started last year’s All-Ireland final win and he will be in the half-forward line.
Murphy was rightly being reserved about his squad’s chances of going the distance again this season during the week.
“We have a very good bunch of lads on our squad. They are very committed to hurling, and to hurling with Galway, and have set themselves realistic targets. There is no messing with the group and they are ambitious about what they want to achieve and we are pleased with how things have been going.”
The minor squad have been training together for the past few months and progress is being made.
“They got a strength and conditioning programme early in the year and they worked on that by themselves and then we started collective training in early March.
“As we have not had a championship game yet, (unlike Wexford, who have had four ), it is hard to know how we will fare out on our first competitive game. However, we are confident that we have a good team again this year and guys with a lot of character and drive. It is all on the day though, and we know that we will have to produce a very good performance all over the field if we are to advance.”
The team is due to be announced tonight (Thursday ) after training and Murphy and his backroom team will be looking to the likes of Mike Mullins (Gort ), Dara Dolan (Cappataggle ), Cathal Mannion (Ahascragh/Fohenagh ) and Roan O’Meara (Portumna ) to drive the team on this Saturday.
Murphy knows that his team may take a while to get up to championship speed and that Wexford have an advantage over them in that department.
“Wexford have played four championship games (against Offaly, Laois and Dublin twice ) over the past few months, while we have been looking at everyone else playing, and they have good men involved with them. They will be difficult opponents. Martin Storey is their manager and Liam Griffin is also in their backroom team so we know that they will be well organised and hard to beat. It was a bit of a surprise to see them (Wexford ) getting beaten by Dublin in the Leinster final as they had beaten them already in the the completion, and no doubt they will be tough on Saturday. But we have experience from last year and hopefully that will stand to us.”
The winners on Saturday will face Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final. Saturday’s minor hurling game will be followed by the round four qualifier game between beaten Leinster finalists Meath and Laois.