GALWAY 3-12 LIMERICK 0-17 THEY were given scant chance of upsetting defending champions Galway but battling Limerick treated early arrivals at Croke Park to an entertaining and highly combative All-Ireland Minor final yesterday.
The Shannonsiders were hammered 2-18 to 1-12 in the Munster final by Cork, who subsequently suffered a 4-13 to 1-9 drubbing by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.
But the widespread belief that there was a yawning chasm between yesterday's adversaries was blown apart by a skilful and spirited performance by Limerick.
It was their inability to beat an inspired James Skehill in the Galway goal that was the major factor in their failure to land the county's first All-Ireland Minor title since 1984.
Conversely, Galway, who fielded six of last year's successful side, found the net on three occasions, Conor Kavanagh scoring the first after 19 minutes and Joe Canning and Thomas Flannery following suit after 36 and 50 minutes.
Flannery, who hadn't figured in either of Galway's two previous outings against Wexford and Cork, was on the field for only two minutes when he blasted the ball past goalkeeper Ger Flynn, after the Limerick goalkeeper had pulled off two fantastic saves from Sean Glynn and Kavanagh.
Flannery's clinical strike put Galway 3-9 to 0-14 in front and, with ten minutes left, the Connacht side had stretched their lead to five points.
But just like earlier, when Limerick shot the last five points of the first half to level the scores 1-7 to 0-10 at half time, the Munster side displayed tremendous resilience and hit a hat-trick of scores in two minutes to narrow the gap to three points with seven minutes left.
However, Galway wing-back Keith Kilkenny then took advantage of a mis-hit line ball to shoot the final score from the middle of the field.
Galway's victory was particularly sweet for manager Mattie Murphy, also at the helm last year, following his failure last October to receive the backing of the Galway clubs after the county board executive supported him to take over from Conor Hayes as county senior supremo.
"All-Ireland wins are sweet, but to win two on the trot is particularly satisfying. Coming in as hot favourites, it was difficult enough for us, but we felt that Limerick would really put it up to us as they didn't do themselves justice in the Munster final.
"What I said to the lads at half-time wouldn't be really printable. We had to re-jig our half-back, midfield and full-forward lines and the goals stood to us in the end."
Paul Loughnane, Paul Callanan, Andrew Keary, Glynn Kavanagh, Canning and subs Flannery and Francis Kerrigan played major parts for the winners and it was certainly no fault of John Kelly, Seamus Hickey, Eoin Ryan and Bryan O'Sullivan that Limerick failed to come up trumps.
Limerick manager Timmy O'Connor was understandably disappointed but said he was proud of the effort put in his by players.
"I can't give the lads enough credit for all the guts and courage they showed and it was heartening the way they reduced Galway's advantage in the latter stages of the first and second half. We created a few goal chances, but we found the Galway goalkeeper very difficult to beat."
SCORERS - Galway: J Canning 1-3 (0-1f), C Kananagh 1-1, T Flannery 1-0, S Glynn, F Kerrigan 0-2 each, J Greene, K Kilkenny, K Coen, J Hughes (f) 0-1 each. Limerick: E Ryan 0-6 (2f), B O'Sullivan, J Kelly (3f) 0-3 each, S Hickey 0-2, G O'Mahoney, M Ryan, D Hanley 0-1 each
GALWAY - J Skehill; A Leech, P Loughnane, P Callanan; J Hughes, C O'Donovan, K Kilkenny; A Keary, K Coen; S Glynn, J Greene, A Callanan; B Murphy, C Kavanagh, J Canning. Subs: F Kerrigan for Coen (40), S Howley for O'Donovan (45), T Flannery for Callanan (48), J Gilsen for Murphy (50), B Kenny for Leech (52).
LIMERICK - G Flynn; S Brown, L Hurley, T Condon; J Kelly, D Moloney, G O'Mahoney; D Moore, S Hickey; D Hanley, J Ryan, B O'Sullivan; M Ryan, E Ryan, D O'Sullivan. Subs: G Allis for D O'Sullivan (24), G Collins for Moore (49), D O'Connor for Allis (60).
REF - E Morris (Dublin)