Burke puts Galway on redemption trail
GALWAY returned to the scene of one of their greatest hurling humiliations on Saturday and emerged with a shot at redemption.
A two-point victory against a fancied Limerick team has set up a final shootout with Dublin on September 10.
It was the first time that Galway's U-21s had played a championship game at Semple Stadium since last September's 25-point mauling by Tipperary in the 2010 final.
And manager Anthony Cunningham, devastated by the manner of that emphatic defeat, was in ebullient form after watching his side claim a merited success against the Munster champions.
Galway arrived into the championship as an unknown quantity but produced a clinical display with seven-point hero Niall Burke, full-back Niall Donoghue and captain Barry Daly to the fore.
Cunningham nodded: "Niall had a super game, Barry worked extremely hard and showed great energy while Niall had a super game. We had good patches and poor for some of the players but we'll kick on from that, no doubt."
Galway's surge to minor and U-21 hurling finals, following another disappointing season in the senior ranks, follows a very definite trend in recent times.
But Cunningham warned of the danger posed by Dublin in both finals, adding: "We're up against a Dublin set-up on the crest of a wave. They will be two extremely hard matches but the bottom line is that we have to improve.
"And we hope they come on after a match like that -- it's as good as a month's training."
Galway, reduced to 14 men when wing-back Rory Foy received a second yellow card and subsequent red with five minutes remaining, were rocked by Limerick goals in either half but dug in to claim a gritty win.
Burke, Man of the Match in the 2009 All-Ireland minor final, was the undoubted star with seven points from play, including five in the first half, while five of Tadhg Haran's seven points were converted from placed balls.
Teenager Shane Dowling managed 2-5 for Limerick, including a second-half penalty goal which put his side a point up, but the Shannonsiders could not build on that platform.
And approaching half-time they lost captain Kevin Downes through injury -- the senior star had carried a broken bone in his hand into the game.
Limerick boss Leo O'Connor, who watched his side claim provincial glory following an extra-time epic against Cork, reflected: "It's disappointing. Things happened tonight that went well for us against Cork."
O'Connor insisted that the immediate aftermath of a championship defeat was not the time to begin speculating about his future at the helm.
But the future is bright for this Limerick team, with all but four starters -- Pat Begley, Cian Hayes, James O'Brien and Conor Allis -- eligible again for this grade next year.
Scorers -- Galway: N Burke, T Haran (5f) 0-7 each, B Daly 0-3, D Burke, C Cooney, J Regan, D Glennon and B Burke 0-1 each. Limerick: S Dowling 2-5 (1-0 pen, 5f), D Hannon 0-4 (1 sl), C Allis, S O'Brien, N Kennedy, G Mulcahy, K O'Donnell 0-1 each.
GALWAY -- J Ryan; D Connolly, N Donoghue, G O'Halloran; R Foy, P Gordan, J Grealish; J Coen, D Burke; C Cooney, N Burke, T Haran; J Regan, B Daly, D Glennon. Subs: B Burke for Cooney (46), D Fox for Haran (58).
LIMERICK -- A Murphy; A Dempsey, P Begley, S O'Reilly; J O'Brien, C Hayes, T O'Callaghan; C Allis , S O'Brien; S Dowling, N Kennedy, D Hannon; G Mulcahy, K Downes, M Ryan. Subs: M Carmody for Downes (29), K O'Donnell for Kennedy (49), W Griffin for Ryan (50), B O'Connell for Dempsey (50).
Ref -- A Stapleton (Laois).