Galway U21 hurlers have it all to do against highly-rated Limerick

The Galway U21 hurlers travel to Semple Stadium on Saturday to take on a highly-rated Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final. The throw-in is at 6pm and the game is live on TG4.

Galway team manager Tony Ward, aware that Limerick have some strong hurlers, many of whom have already played at senior level, remains quietly confident his panel can put it up to the Treaty men if they play to their full potential.

"The mood in our camp is very positive," he says. "The lads on our panel have worked really hard over the past few months and they are where they want to be. We started in the gym last January and all the lads have put in a Trojan effort over the past few weeks and months to be ready for this game.

"Limerick are a very good side and are Munster champions, so we have respect for them. All their six forwards have had time on the field with their seniors, so they are good players. However, we have a lot of belief in our guys too, and we have some top class hurlers on our squad. If we show up and play to our potential, we will be there or thereabouts."

Galway's joint captains this season are Declan Cronin (Cappataggle ) and Seán Loftus (Turloughmore ), who saw action in three games of the Leinster senior championship this season as a substitute.

They can also call on star senior forward Conor Whelan who is a "shoo-in" as Young Player of the Year and shot 0-4 from play in the senior's win over Tipperary, and Craughwell's Tomas Monaghan, who came on against both Dublin and Wexford in the Leinster senior championship. Gort's Jack Grealish is also on the senior squad and will be expected to have a big role in two days' time.

His midfield partner from the All-Ireland minor success of 2015, Jack Coyne (Castlegar ), is also going well and should start at the weekend.

The Galway management backroom team, which also includes senior selector Frannie Forde and Tony Óg Regan, will also be looking to Dan Nevin and Brian Concannon to help storm the green barricades on Saturday evening.

Limerick's fourth championship game

One significant advantage for Limerick is their preparation, having played three championship games over the past few months against Tipperary, Clare, and Cork in the provincial final, whereas Galway have had none.

The Munster champions have some top quality forwards in experienced senior star Cian Lynch, Tom Morrissey, Peter Casey, Barry Nash and free-taker Aaron Gillane, who hit 0-14 in their Munster semi-final win over Clare. They racked up 2-24 against Tipp and 1-28 against the Banner, which tells us their scoring threat if the supply is not curtailed.

Galway have played challenges against both Cork and Kilkenny, but a few challenges versus three tense championship games is like comparing chalk with cheese.

However Tony Ward, who has overseen two All-Ireland victories with Galway senior camogie squads, sees no point in moaning about their lack of championship games.

"The structures are far from ideal. We know that for sure," he says. "However, they are as they are at the moment and we have to deal with the hand we have been dealt. There is a great buzz in our camp this week and we will be going down to Thurles to give our very best shot at beating Limerick and getting to an All-Ireland.

"We do this because we love it and we love hurling, and when we are not involved, we miss it. The management team has some hard calls to make this week, not alone in picking the starting 15, but the 24 who will be togging out.

"Every manager hates that part of the job and it will be tough on a few lads who will be very disappointed. That said, we all have the same objective, which is to try to represent Galway as well as we can. The lads on our panel will be doing their absolute best on Saturday evening to play to their best and to win the game, and we can't ask for more than that."

Kilkenny will play Derry in the other semi-final at 4pm in Semple Stadium.

The money-men have little doubt who will be in the All-Ireland final with Kilkenny priced at 1/200 to advance over Derry (20/1 ), and the Cats are a huge minus 21 in the handicap.

Limerick are at 1/6 to beat Galway with the maroon and white men at 9/2 to advance.


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