Tipp to shade it against Galway

ATTEMPTING to call the Erin All-Ireland U-21 hurling semi-final between Tipperary and Galway in Ennis is really just a game of bluff.

Tipperary overcame Clare before enduring two tremendous tussles with Cork in the provincial decider, which was eventually separated in extra time.

It was the Tipp defence that most impressed, the half-back line especially in control, big Setanta frustrated by the marking of John Devane who will play today despite a knee scare.

It was the Tipp defence that most impressed, the half-back line especially in control, big Setanta frustrated by the marking of John Devane who will play today despite a knee scare.

We know then the value of Tipp, a team of proven mettle. What of Galway? This is where the blindfold goes on. We know that the majority of the side played in the All-Ireland U-21 final loss to Limerick last year.

We know also that they played against both Kilkenny and Clare earlier this year in challenge games, winning one and losing one against both but what does that mean? Little or nothing. It was ages ago, and on every occasion both Galway and the opposition were missing their key players, all bound up in more serious matters with their respective senior sides.

Finally, we know that three years ago this particular Galway side won the All-Ireland minor title. Six of that minor side retain exactly their positions for tomorrow's team: keeper Aidan Diviney, full-back Tony Óg Regan, Adrian Cullinane at left half-back, Richie Murray and Peter Garvey at 10 and 11, and David Greene at top-of-the-left. Five more also make the starting 15, albeit in different slots: Brian O'Mahony now at midfield from corner-back, Shane Kavanagh from left-half to centre-back, high-scoring Ger Farragher from midfield to full-forward, with dual star Kevin Brady, then at wing-forward, taking Farragher's centre-field slot, and senior star Damien Hayes in turn going from corner to wing. Fergal Moore was at corner-back in that minor final, and starts there today.

Likely winner? Going with all known form, there's only one team in it, only one team that's been in action to date. At a guess, Tipperary's Munster experience will stand to them.

Meanwhile, Kilkenny get the vote to topple Ulster champions Down in the Erin U-21 Hurling Championship semi-final in Mullingar at 3.30pm.

Kilkenny manager Martin Fogarty has made one change. Last year's captain Michael Rice, ruled out by injury, has been replaced by Sean O'Neill.

KILKENNY (U-21 HC v Down): D. Herity, M. Phelan, C. Hickey, G. Joyce, K. Coogan, J. Tyrell, JJ Delaney, S. Hennessy, T. Walsh, C. Phelan, P. Cleere, W. O'Dwyer, A. Fogarty, S. O'Neill, B. Dowling.

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