Galway U21s fail to live to high billing in ThurlesAugust 29, 2012 - 7:00am
STEPHEN GLENNON AT SEMPLE STADIUM
THREE Kilkenny first half goals – all scored in a devastating 11 minute period – ended Galway’s reign as All-Ireland U-21 champions when the sides met before a paltry crowd of just over 3,300 at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday evening.
It was not so much the defeat itself, but the manner of it that was most alarming. For their part, Galway were top heavy with senior players – 17 in all – and that few of these stood up and were counted was so utterly disappointing. Indeed, on this evidence, it does not bode well for the All-Ireland senior decider between these two counties on Sunday week.
Of course, the management has argued that the U-21 and senior games have to be treated as separate entities – and, to a certain degree, rightly so – but the truth of the matter is that the Galway set-up this year has been all encompassing by incorporating U-21 and intermediate – all inter-connected.
Consequently, you can’t simply or convienetly dismiss the displays of the other teams because if a Galway brand of hurling is being created and nurtured, then surely this is not something exclusive to the senior grade.
It has to permeate throughout all levels, particularly those involved in the senior set-up, namely U-21 and intermediate, and there has been little to suggest in these respective championships that the magic formula has been found.
In any event, given the recent defeats of the Tribesmen in the intermediate and U-21 grades, you have to think that the aspirations of these two sides have been sacrificed in pursuit of that elusive Liam McCarthy Cup. However, as noted previously, those will be acceptable sacrifices if the Holy Grail of hurling crosses the Shannon in the coming weeks. It all hinges on that.
By the same token, it would be foolish to think that the management – Anthony Cunningham, Tom Helebert and Mattie Kenny – has allowed focus on the All-Ireland senior decider to be tempered or diluted in any shape or form by the U-21 or intermediate fixtures because, if they had, they are allowing Brian Cody’s men to steal a march.
Still, they will be disappointed that several of their key senior players were, by and large, anonymous for long period of this All-Ireland semi-final. No more so than St. Thomas’ forwards, James Regan (deployed to defence for a time) and Conor Cooney, both of whom failed to raise a single flag over the 60 plus minutes.
That said, the leadership required from the established senior players around the park was conspicuous in its absence, although Joseph Cooney, Tadgh Haran, Richie Cummins, Niall Burke, Jonathan Glynn and the hardworking Davy Glennon all had their moments.
Unfortunately, Galway did not need moments. They needed performances.
As it was, the Cats – led by senior players Richie Doyle and Cillian Buckley – came to play a game synonymous with Kilkenny hurling. Skilful, powerful, unforgiving and deadly. By half-time, the Leinster champions held a 3-9 to 0-11 advantage.
And yet, it was Galway who started the brighter. After just 11 minutes, they led 0-6 to 0-3 following scores from Niall Burke (four points, two from play), Davy Glennon and Jonathan Glynn.
Then it all changed. The imposing Glynn seemed to be man-handled in the Kilkenny penalty area – a clear-cut penalty – but referee John Sexton waved away any such appeal. In any event, Richie Mulrooney’s charges turned over the possession and in the ensuing move rampaged down the field and netted the opening goal on 12 minutes. Tight margins.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.