Preview: Electric Ireland All-Ireland MHC Final - Galway v Kilkenny
Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final
Galway v Kilkenny, Croke Park, 1pm
By Michael Devlin
Kilkenny and Galway are back in this year’s Electric Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Final, meeting for the second year in succession.
Twelve months ago, the young Tribesmen won by seven points, and are back in the decider bidding to complete a three-in-a-row, having also won in 2017. Kilkenny meanwhile last won the title back in 2014 and are chasing their 22nd All-Ireland title at this level, the most of any county.
The sides have already met in this year’s championship, in the quarter-final ‘round robin’ in Croke Park last month, with Galway winning by 3-16 to 2-16 on what was their first outing of the year.
Kilkenny’s path to the final has been more arduous than their Connacht counterparts. They’ve played eight games so far to get to Sunday’s showpiece, by virtue of coming through the Leinster competition, while the final will only be Galway’s fourth game.
Narrow wins over Dublin and Wexford followed by more comfortable victories over Offaly and Kildare set up a Leinster final date with the Model County, who turned the tables on Richie Mulrooney’s lads with a four-point win.
They recovered though to clinch a victory over Clare in quarter-final group stage, and despite that defeat to Galway, an impressive semi-final win over Limerick sealed their passage into Sunday’s game.
After beating Kilkenny, Galway edged past Clare to make the last four, where they confidently dismissed of Wexford 0-20 to 0-11.
Galway manager Brian Hanley hailed that opening win over Kilkenny as an 'incredible' start to their Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor title defence. They looked all but certain to coast to victory after leading by a 12-points close to half-time, but Kilkenny pegged back the deficit to go level. Sean McDonagh's 50th minute goal for Galway ultimately separated the sides.
Centre-forward McDonagh has been leading the scoring charge for the Tribesmen, landing 0-12 in the semi-final and 1-9 against Clare, a sizeable chunk of both tallies coming from play.
A boost for Galway is the availability of team captain Ian McGlynn. The centre-back was shown a red card following an off the ball incident early in the second half against Wexford, but following an appeal the card was rescinded, and he is cleared to play in this weekend’s game.
Full-forward Shane Morgan was another worry for Hanley after he was carted off the field in that game’s closing stages following a melee. His recovery has been positive, but he will be subject to a couple of fitness tests to confirm his availability for Sunday’s clash.
Kilkenny are coming off the back of their their best display of the season, turning a two-point half-time lead against Limerick into a 12-point win with a storming second-half.
Billy Drennan top scored for Kilkenny with 1-08, with Timmy Clifford and midfielder Liam Moore contributing 0-10 between in a hugely impressive showing. Both Drennan and Clifford are again expected to lead the attack this Sunday.
GALWAY: Michael Egan; Christy Brennan, Eoin Lawless, Adam Nolan; Enda Collins, Ian McGlynn, John Cooney; Liam Leen, Alex Connaire; Colm Cunningham, Sean McDonagh, Tiernan Killeen; Ruben Davitt, Shane Morgan, Greg Thomas.
KILKENNY: Aidan Tallis; Billy Reid, William Halpin, Tristan Roche; Peter McDonald, Padraic Moylan, Zach Bay Hammond; Liam Moore, James Aylward; Pierce Blanchfield, Timmy Clifford, Colman O'Sullivan; Billy Drennan, Jack Doyle, Ian Byrne.