Murphy raps choice of venue for minors

GALWAY minor manager Mattie Murphy is hugely disappointed at the decision not to play the All-Ireland hurling semi-finals in Croke Park as curtain-raisers to the senior games.

“There won’t be too many people interested in the Christy Ring Cup final between Down and Westmeath”, said Murphy whose minor team plays Cork in the first of the semi-finals in Portlaoise on Saturday (6 p.m.).

“It means that no minor team will play in Croke Park before the final. Is any thought being given to the enormous expense supporters are being put to follow their teams? Surely our game with Cork could be played before Sunday’s semi-final or the second semi-final involving Galway and Kilkenny the week after.

“Look what it would do for the game in the capital if the Dublin and Limerick semi-final was a curtain raiser. It would add a couple of thousand followers to the game”.

Murphy won’t name his semi-final side until tonight to allow a few niggly injuries to clear up. He is fortunate to be able to call on seven of last year’s winning side, but argues that it’s no guarantee of success.

“Young players can be so unpredictable, and can let you down with a bang. We’ll have to play to the peak of our powers to get the verdict on Saturday as Cork are reputed to have a very good team.”

Cork coach Denis Ring said he was well aware early in the season that the semi-finals would not be played in Croke Park so it’s not an issue for his side.

“Saturday’s game is a repeat of last year when Galway beat us by four points and went on to take the title. With almost half of their team available again, they are going to be very difficult to beat.

“Having said that we have improved in all our outings this season and if we can reproduce the form we displayed in the Munster final against Limerick, I would be reasonably confident of turning the tables on Galway”.

Brian Moylan (Glen Rovers) has been added to the Cork squad.

After a two-year spell as a Wexford selector, Dickie Murphy is returning in earnest as an inter-county hurling referee. Next Sunday he takes charge of the first of the Guinness All-Ireland semi-finals between Cork and Clare.

His only game of note in the current championship was the Clare/Dublin meeting in the Round Robin series. One of the most successful referees of the modern era, the Enniscorthy postman took charge of four All-Ireland hurling finals - two of them involving Clare - in 1992, 1995, 1997 and 1998.

Based on his knowledge of the teams and taking account of the fact that Wexford played Cork three times in the last two years, he believes Sunday’s semi-final will be “very tight.”

Meanwhile, Westmeath have given the thumbs up sign to the starting side that defeated Kildare last time out for Sunday’s Christy Ring Cup final clash with Down at Croke Park.

DOWN (Christy Ring Cup final v Westmeath): Graham Clarke; L. Clarke, S. Murray, C. Coulter; Gabriel Clarke, G. Savage, S. Wilson; G. Adair, A. Savage; E. Clarke, P. Bandiff, B. McGourty; M. Coulter, G. Johnson, S. Clarke. Subs: R. Murray, P. Hughes, J. McCusker, E. Trainor, C. Courtney, C. Bandiff, E. McGuinness, J. Doherty, D. Flynn, A. Bell, P.Smith.

WESTMEATH (SHC v Down): M. Briordy; M. Williams, C. Murtagh, C. Jordan; B. Murtagh, D. McCormack, B. Connaughton; R. Whelan, E. Loughlin; G. Gavin, J. Shaw, A. Mitchell; B. Kennedy, K. Cosgrove, J. Clarke.

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