Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Failure of U-21 hurlers worrying ahead of the big oneAugust 29, 2012 - 8:17am
THERE were bad tidings from Thurles on Saturday evening. A Galway under 21 hurling team top heavy with survivors from last year’s triumphant squad and players with inter-county senior championship experience utterly failed to justify their exalted reputation when coming up well short in a high stakes encounter against Kilkenny.
Only two outstanding individual goals from Davy Glennon and Joseph Cooney saved the Tribesmen from a really heavy defeat, but the overall disappointing Galway display and the manner in which Kilkenny cut holes through their defence left supporters with an even greater sense of foreboding ahead of next month’s senior showdown between the same two counties.
Psychologically alone, this was an important match to win for Galway and with 17 senior panellists involved with the Under 21s, they appeared to have the artillery to fend off the Kilkenny challenge, but they flattered to deceive in Semple Stadium and can have no complaints about the outcome with several key performers failing to deliver.
Given that the Galway senior management were also over the U-21s – with a little help from Portumna’s Johnny Kelly – it placed even greater significance on the result, but the champions just didn’t fire after an encouraging opening in which they opened a 0-6 to 0-3 lead with Niall Burke picking off a couple of excellent points.
Gradually, things started to go downhill. The Galway midfield and defence were starting to have their limitations exposed and were basically over-run as Kilkenny struck for three goals in a devastating 11 minute spell. Ollie Walsh, whose shot ought to have been saved by Fergal Flannery, John Power and Ger Aylward all found the net to lay the foundations for thoroughly deserved seven point victory.
There was far more cutting and method to Kilkenny’s hurling and though Fergal Flannery really ought to have saved Walsh’s opening goal, there was no doubting Kilkenny’s superiority. They didn’t stand on ceremony either and Galway struggled to cope in the physical exchanges. Jonathan Glynn, however, was a notable exception, repeatedly winning hard ball and landing two fine points to boot in the opening-half.
By the 22nd minute, Galway midfielder Padraig Brehony and Jason Grealish, who is hardly a natural corner back in the first place, had been called ashore as the team management tried to stop the rot and though pointed frees from Burke (two) and Tadhg Haran, who tried hard, had reduced the deficit from ten to seven by the break, we all knew they now faced a nearly impossible task to overhaul the Cats.
When Power rattled the Galway net from a 21 yard free soon after the resumption, Kilkenny were never going to be caught. By the 48th minute, they were 4-11 to 0-13 ahead and coasting, only for the title holders to launch a spirited comeback out of nothing. Glennon completed a brave run with a booted effort past goalkeeper Dylan Walsh before a 50 yard surge from Cooney ended with a perfectly placed shot to the far corner.
With Burke and Haran raising white flags, suddenly Galway were only three points adrift, with momentum behind them, and seven minutes left on the clock. True to form, however, Kilkenny lifted the siege and, as if to emphasise their superiority, they were able to sufficiently regroup for Kevin Kelly (free), Power, Aylward and Walter Walsh to close out the game with late points.
Given there was so much hope attached to these young Galway hurlers, Saturday’s disjointed effort offered few consolations. Most of them came off second best in their personal duels although Jonathan Glynn must now be pressing for a starting slot on September 9 after a really noteworthy display, typified by his ability to win aerial battles. Cooney could come into the reckoning too after some impressive moments, most notably for that cracking second-half goal.
Few of the rest came through unscathed. Niall Burke, however, did pick off three classy points from play and that is his primary function, while Glennon, Haran, Richie Cummins, early on, had their moments, but the Galway backs just couldn’t cope with the pressure. Daithi Burke did improve as the game progressed, but the damage was already done.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.