THERE were 21,110 people in Thurles on Saturday night for the All-Ireland U21 final and they came for a night of celebration.
And the Tipperary players did not let the fans down.
After 30 seconds the home fans were in ecstasy when Brian O’Meara had the ball in the net and the game was over by the third minute when John O’Dwyer had their second goal.
All over the field you could see by the body language of the Tipperary players that their confidence was sky high.
It’s very difficult to play an U21 final six days are winning a senior title, so you have to give credit to the manner in which the ‘dual stars’ performed on Saturday night. Padraic and Brendan Maher controlled the centre of the defence all through, Noel McGrath came to the fore in the second-half, and the biggest cheer of the night was when Patrick ‘Bonnar’ Maher got the fourth goal. He’s a guy who I think the Tipperary people have taken to their hearts as he works so hard for the team. But my man-of-the-match was Michael Cahill at left corner-back. He was outstanding, didn’t put a foot wrong and completely blotted out Galway’s danger man Richie Cummins.
The game showed that Tipperary have some other great prospects coming up. James Barry was very good at wing-back, moving the ball very well while James Logue made some brilliant saves in goal. At the edge of the square Brian O’Meara showed what Liam Sheedy saw in him to start him back in May against Cork. He’s very brave, is great under a high ball and since he’s still underage next year, is definitely one to watch.
IT was a really bad night for Galway hurling. I think the whingeing they did about having to play the game in Thurles affected the team. You should be delighted to be involved in an All-Ireland final and play it wherever it is fixed. Everyone had to be focused and that didn’t happen.
They tried very hard, and their two midfielders Johnny Coen and Barry Daly were superb. But it was a disgrace that their supporters didn’t turn up on a night when they really needed them. The whole thing was handled very poorly. Having said that, even if this game was on in Pearse Stadium, I think the result would have been the same. This was a special Tipperary U21 team and deep down, they know they should have done better last year after getting caught by Waterford.
There was a great buzz around Semple Stadium on Saturday night. I met older people like the Rattler Byrne after the match and he was just overjoyed with another All-Ireland title. The Tipperary fans weren’t allowed on the pitch in Croke Park but on Saturday night they were and their behaviour was excellent. We could be looking at another hurling power coming to dominate the game now. The key for Tipperary is to keep these players’ feet firmly on the ground after all that they’ve achieved in the last week. But I think they have the right kind of people over them to control that, in Ken Hogan and Tommy Dunne at U21, and Liam Sheedy, Michael Ryan and Eamonn O’Shea at senior. The talent is there for Tipperary to really drive on.
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