Big Joe takes on Galway for three years

On Wednesday night the Galway football board ratified Joe Kernan as the county football manager for three years. He is a very high profile appointment, however it is questionable if the playing talent is in the county to reach an All-Ireland final.

Kernan thinks there is, and he has already mentioned winning All-Irelands and Galway in the same sentence.

Time will tell; however at least the players will have huge respect for a man who comes with a very high reputation. A few other questions that have also been asked in Galway football circles during the week are; First, how much will it cost to bring “Big Joe” and perhaps a Northern based trainer up and down the country a few times a week over the next few years? And second, where and from whom will the money come to pay the bills that will no doubt be generated by head-hunting one of the best managers in the country?

Galway minors strike gold in Croke Park

Last Sunday was a fantastic day for Galway hurling. Winning a hurling All-Ireland final, senior, u-21, or minor, is a wonderful thing for a county, but beating Kilkenny in the final at Croke Park makes it a little sweeter. The fact that team manager Mattie Murphy and his 2008 team had been pipped at the post by Kilkenny in last year’s final with a late goal would have added some extra motivation to this year’s panel.

Indeed the match programme last Sunday colourfully described last year’s final as “Grand Larceny” on Kilkenny’s part. That said, regardless of how much the 2008 defeat hurt, far more important was that the 2009 team had the skill, heart, work-rate, belief and leadership within the panel to come through when the going got tough. Thankfully they most definitely did, and they proved that fact conclusively, when they held their nerve to keep Kilkenny at bay after the Cats made a superb start to the second half. Kilkenny whittled down Galway’s seven-point interval advantage to only one point at two different junctures.

Yet critically they never regained parity and Galway, and in particular 16-year-old Shane Maloney, held their nerve to close out the game.

Galway had outstanding performances all over the field, and everyone who saw action played his part.

Daithi Burke at full-back gave a masterful performance and was a key man in keeping the Kilkenny forwards at bay. His father (Gerry Burke ) won an All-Ireland minor football medal as team captain back in 1976, and it was tremendous to see the next generation of Galway sportsmen collecting more medals in the maroon and white. Davy Glennon performed like a human dynamo at midfield and his two magnificent points in the second half were crucial scores. He hurled some ball and his work-rate and mobility were phenomenal.

Richie Cummins took his two goals brilliantly and showed the leadership and attitude that made him such an exceptionally good captain. In the other corner it was impossible not to be hugely impressed by the composure, self-belief and accuracy of young Shane Maloney. The way he hit his two pressure scores from dead balls was extraordinary. The pressure on him must have been immense, but he drove the ball with such conviction that it wilted Kilkenny hearts and helped the Galway lads to believe that it was really was going to be their day.

Mattie Murphy collects fifth All Ireland

To manage your county to five All-Ireland minor titles is a magnificent achievement and hopefully there will be more to come from the Gort man.

It is hard to beat experience, especially in the cauldron of Croke Park on All-Ireland final day and Murphy has it in spades. After the victory, he described the win as “the sweetest of them all. They’re all sweet, but this is exceptionally sweet,” smiled Murphy. “We had one hand on the cup last year and it was stolen from us”.

Hopefully many of these hurlers will go on and to emulate their minor achievements in the U-21 and senior grades over the next 10 years.

That won’t be easy, though, and a word of caution should be voiced; Kilkenny manager Richie Mulrooney made some fine points about his county’s set-up after their defeat. He was looking at the bigger picture and pointed out that just four of their senior team that did the four in a row last weekend held All-Ireland minor medals. “I’d be confident that in time a lot of our minors will be future Kilkenny senior stars and there’ll be a number of them back in this grade next year too”, he added. Last Sunday was a glorious day for the Galway minors of 2009 and their successful and experienced management team. Mattie has produced a lot of outstanding minors, although he is on record as saying that this is the best minor team he has ever had. The secret now for Galway hurling is to cultivate and develop these young men and those who tasted defeat last year at minor and in the u-21 grade this year, building them into a powerful force that can win bigger prizes in the future.

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