Sport Hurling

Monday 19 March 2018

Hogan backs Premier to stay on winning streak

Team captains Padraic Maher, Tipperary, and David Burke, Galway, met ahead of this weekend's Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U-21 All-Ireland Final at Semple Stadium.
Team captains Padraic Maher, Tipperary, and David Burke, Galway, met ahead of this weekend's Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U-21 All-Ireland Final at Semple Stadium.
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

both managers have had axes to grind ahead of Saturday night's All-Ireland U-21 hurling final between Tipperary and Galway.

Tribes boss Anthony Cunningham lashed Croke Park over the choice of Semple Stadium as the venue for the decider, while opposite number Ken Hogan was disappointed to see his full-back John Coghlan learn of his suspension for the final last weekend -- two weeks after the offence was committed during the facile semi-final win over Antrim.

"John's appeal is on (tonight) in Croke Park. John has been involved since last January with Tipperary. He won a Munster U-21 hurling medal, he has a Munster U-21 football medal and this is his last game at this level. His record has been unblemished and it's unfortunate that, two weeks after the event, his offence was upgraded to a red card," said Hogan.


Cunningham was less philosophical and insisted that Galway hadn't received a "fair hearing" and that the threat from Galway to boycott the game in protest at the venue was real.

"It was considered that we wouldn't play the match in Thurles and every genuine hurling guy in Galway and across the country would recognise that this was valid," he said.

"There are larger things at play here. It would lead to further problems with Galway and suspensions and, in the larger scheme of things, we've been asked by the hurling board to play the match, which we're happy to do.

"We're very, very annoyed that the fixture is in Thurles, playing a team on their home ground. It's unprecedented that a national final should be played at the home venue of one of the teams.

"It's very disappointing -- the dictatorial stance taken by Croke Park, from senior management down, from the president down to the CCCC; we haven't got a fair hearing in Galway and everyone knows that."

GAA president Christy Cooney defended the venue choice and stated that Thurles may host the U-21 final on a regular basis.

"I believe it was CCCC's intention all along to play the game in Semple Stadium, once it wasn't going to be in Croke Park with the three camogie finals there," he said.

"We have invested, between centrally and Tipperary, €18m in Semple Stadium. We want to use it when it's available to us and I believe it's a perfect venue for both finalists."

With eight senior All-Ireland winners in their number, Tipp are firm favourites to collect their second title in six days and Hogan is certain his stars will be up to the task, despite the celebrations.

"They're on a winning streak -- they all came to training on Tuesday night. Michael Cahill graduated from UCC that day at 4.0 and he was still up at 7.0 for training -- that's the type of player we have," he said.

"Tipperary haven't won an All-Ireland U-21 since '95 -- that's a huge amount of time. U-21 titles have been scarce in Tipperary, while Galway have a fantastic record in the past decade at minor and U-21."

The Galway camp were at pains to stress they wouldn't be using the venue as an excuse, but Cunningham did suggest that the time was right for Galway to enter the Leinster championship at levels other than senior.

"If you compare a Clare U-21 player over the last three years against a Galway player -- we live side by side, but they're in the Munster championship. They got to an All-Ireland final last year, so a Clare player would have had far more matches than his equivalent in Galway," said Cunningham.

Both sides declared a clean bill of health, with Richie Cummins (one of only two senior panellists in the Galway squad, along with captain David Burke) expected to be fit.

Galway's semi-final win over Dublin was their first competitive outing of the season and they improved greatly as the game wore on, restricting the Leinster champions to just a point in the second half.

"I think it's going to be a very intense battle," Hogan said.

"The weather conditions have changed -- it has rained incessantly for the last few days and with wind, breeze, rain you never know what's going to happen. Hurling can be a great leveller -- the most focused team will come through."

Irish Independent

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