Like the seniors, the Cats are also chasing a hat-trick of titles at minor level, but the Callan CBS teacher is concerned that the pressure to complete the treble is beginning to weigh heavily on his charges.
“Expectations are high in Kilkenny and followers always want the teams to win, no matter what has gone on before,” said Br Damien.
“To be quite honest, I didn’t expect us to get to the final. Tipperary were the favourites to win this year’s title with Galway and Cork next in line.
“However, Kierans’ success has rubbed off on us and while we struggled in a number of games, we are in tomorrow’s final on merit and will give it a right go.
“Tipperary pushed us all the way in the semi-final and we were a little fortunate to come away with a one point victory. The one advantage at this level is that as you continue to win the team gets better.
“We beat a highly rated Galway side in last year’s final, somewhat against the odds, and they are back looking to make amends.
“They looked very good against Cork in their semi-final and it’s going to take a huge effort on our part to retain our crown. With nine of the squad under age again for 2005, we are probably a bit on the young side.
“This is my fourth year involved with minor teams and each one of them has had their own characteristics, and while winning is great, the satisfaction is seeing players graduate onto the senior team and doing well.
“Playing in an All-Ireland final is a huge event for any young player. You just don’t know how they will react on the day. Fortunately, we have a couple of last year’s team still involved which will give us a bit of experience.
“On the law of averages, Galway are due a minor title. They were a little unlucky last year and should have got a draw. Obviously it goes without saying that we are delighted to back in the final again and hopefully we can do ourselves and our county proud by completing the hat-trick.”
Galway manager Mattie Murphy was hugely disappointed at last year’s failure to Kilkenny.
“The team we had last year was more than capable of winning, but we didn’t play for the full hour and it cost us dearly.
“Cork provided us with a good test in the semi-final and we finished well to win by five points. Kilkenny will obviously be hard to beat but if we can get a couple of early scores it could be the platform to go on to greater things.”
Cork coach Denis Ring reckons Galway will need to tighten up considerably in defence.
“I was impressed with the manner in which they beat us but the concern I would have about them is that, more so than in any other game we played in the championship, we created a lot of goal chances against them, but didn’t take them.”
“Defensively I feel they are weak and will need to improve in that area because this is a very solid Kilkenny team with a number of excellent players in Richie Hogan and Maurice Nolan.
Tipperary coach Paddy McCormack feels Galway will shade it.
“Their win over Cork was no surprise to me, but they must stop the ball going into the Kilkenny forward line as they have a couple of players in there would do a lot of damage if given the chance. It’s a difficult final to call, but Galway get the nod as this current Kilkenny team is not as good as the previous two.”
GALWAY: Mark Helihy; Paul Loughnane, Gerard Moran, Ciaran O’Donovan; Martin Ryan, John Lee, Keith Kilkenny; Andrew Carey, David Kennedy; D. Whyte, Kevin Hynes, Finian Coone; Karl Wade, Joe Canning, Barry Hanley.
KILKENNY: Liam Tierney; James Maher, Kieran Joyce, Eamon Walsh; Neil Prendergast, Ronan Maher, Shane Prendergast; Patrick Hartley, Patrick Hogan; Gavin Nolan, Maurice Nolan, Nicholas Kenny; Richard Hogan, Edward O’Donoghue, Eoin Guinan.
Referee, John Sexton (Limerick).