More than just 21 final place at stake as classy Galway boys take on CatsAugust 24, 2012 - 7:00am
IF you are looking for the appetiser to the All-Ireland senior hurling final, then this is it. Galway v Kilkenny. All-Ireland U-21 semi-final. Semple Stadium, Thurles. This Saturday. 6pm.
It goes without saying that with both counties due to clash in the All-Ireland senior decider on September 9, the Tribesmen – chasing their 11th Cross of Cashel – and the Cats – chasing their 12th – will be anxious to lay down some sort of marker. To set the tone.
For Galway’s part, they boast no less than 17 senior panellists, so anything other than a victory for the reigning All-Ireland U-21 champions would be a setback of sorts this Saturday. Quite simply, they have to make a statement.
That said, this is a highly fancied Kilkenny U-21 outfit and they certainly backed up this assessment with emphatic victories over Wexford and Laois in the Leinster semi-final and final respectively. However, more of those games anon.
No doubt, Galway face a big challenge, particularly as they once again enter this fixture cold, but you would hope with the quality at their disposal they will be able to absorb the expected early Kilkenny pressure and subsequently lay the platform for a win in this contest.
Padraig Pearses Fergal Flannery and Craughwell’s Jamie Ryan will, not for the first time this year, battle it out for the No. 1 jersey, with the six backs to be picked from the likes of Darragh Burke (St. Thomas’), Daithí Burke (Turloughmore), Johnny Coen and Paul Hoban (both Loughrea), Joseph Cooney (Sarsfields), Brian Flaherty (Abbeyknockmoy), and Cathal Greaney and Mark Horan (both Craughwell) among others.
A plethora of players could be selected in the midfield sector but, certainly, a suitable pairing would be Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry’s Padraig Breheny and Gort’s Jason Grealish, who has recovered from the knee injury which kept him out of the Galway’s intermediates starting line-up last weekend.
The Galway attack holds endless possibilities and selecting the six starting forwards in this division could be the most daunting task for the management. Certainly, you would imagine senior semi-final starters Niall Burke of Oranmore/Maree and St. Thomas’ duo Conor Cooney and James Regan will all feature, leaving the remaining berths to be fought for by a host of quality players.
These include Tadgh Haran (Liam Mellows), Richie Cummins (Gort), Shane Maloney (Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry), Davy Glennon (Mullagh) and Jonathan Glynn (Ardrahan), the latter duo also played their part in the victory over Cork in the All-Ireland senior semi-final. Of course, the versatile Joseph Cooney could also feature in this area.
In any event, it appears to be a quality Galway outfit. Galway coach Tom Helebert agrees. “We have a strong panel and obviously we would hope to bring the experience that these players have got through the senior [campaign] into the semi-final on Saturday. I suppose, when you have 17 [U-21] players involved in the senior set-up, it does make it look strong.”
Of course, 17 does not go into 15, so with a number of senior panellists not starting this contest, Galway should have strength and depth on the bench and that will be vitally important. “We will be naming the team on Thursday night and we do have some difficult decisions to make,” acknowledges Helebert.
“We would be happy enough though with the way things have gone so far. The lads have been preparing well and a lot of that has been because there are a lot of them in with the seniors. So, they have been training away with the senior panel.”
In this respect, Galway should have an advantage over Kilkenny, who have just five senior panellists involved, namely Cillian Buckley – impressive when introduced against Tipperary last Sunday – Richie Doyle, Padraig Walsh (brother of Tommy Walsh), Willie Phelan and Walter Walsh, who has recovered from a bout of tonsillitis.
However, a plethora of Kilkenny players did feature in their intermediates’ 0-21 to 1-13 win over the Tribesmen last weekend, including defenders Jason Corcoran, Brian Kennedy and Luke Harney – a half-time substitute – and offensive players Jeff Brennan, Ger Alyward and U-21 captain Kevin Kelly.
Make no mistake, this is a strong Kilkenny outfit and this was reflected by their 3-20 to 4-6 victory over Wexford in the provincial semi-final. To the fore that day was Kevin Kelly with nine points, seven from frees, while the wily Walter Walsh and John Power tallied 2-1 and 1-1 respectively from play. For their part, Ger Alyward and Martin Gaffney chipped in with three points apiece.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.