Monday 16 September 2019

Saving their best for last, momentum is now with impressive Kilkenny

Timmy Clifford. Photo: Sportsfile
Timmy Clifford. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Galway will aim to secure a hat-trick of All-Ireland minor titles today for the first time in their history and capture their fourth Irish Press Cup in five seasons along the way.

Though this is a repeat of last year's decider, which the Tribesmen won by seven points, Kilkenny have surprised themselves by reaching the final after losing two games in the championship. The first was to Wexford in the Leinster final and they then endured another defeat to Galway in the round-robin All-Ireland format.

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But they still made it through to reach the last four and, typical of championship teams from Kilkenny, they produced when it mattered most by hammering a fancied Limerick side (2-24 to 0-18) in the semi-final. Limerick had won a terrific Munster championship.

Dicksboro's Timmy Clifford hit six points from play in a man-of-the-match performance while his club colleague Liam Moore landed 0-4 from play. Their contribution, together with goals from Jack Doyle and Billy Drennan who top-scored with a 1-8 contribution, laid the foundation for a famous ambush.

Meanwhile, title holders Galway powered into another decider when they overcame Leinster champions Wexford who failed to find their best form on the biggest stage.

Galway captain Ian McGlynn is free to play having successfully appealed against the red card he received in the second-half of that tie which, unusually for a game at under 17 level, ended in an ugly brawl even though the Tribesmen had long since secured their passage to the final.

Seán McDonagh was their leading scorer with 12 points, nine of those coming from frees, and he was named man of the match.

Galway, who are bidding for a unique double in the minor grade this season as their minor footballers are also through to next month's football decider, will be mindful of the fact that their two previous attempts to snare a hat-trick of All-Ireland minor hurling wins fell at the final hurdle.

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In 2001 and 2006 Cork and Tipperary respectively beat them in their three-in-a-row finals.

Kilkenny last won the minor title in 2014 but, ominously for Galway, Richie Mullrooney's side have hit form at precisely the right time.

Galway will start as favourites but, given the youthfulness of the players involved, such tags often count for little. Indeed, there is an argument whether players of this age should be subjected to the pressure of playing in the curtain raiser to a senior decider. But if Kilkenny produce the form they showed against Limerick they are capable winning.

Verdict: Kilkenny

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