The loose remark often thrown around by Galway hurling supporters, that ‘we’ve enough minors, ’tis the senior we want’, has been put back into cold storage following the famine-ending victory delivered by Micheál Donoghue’s men, but the return of Liam MacCarthy should not take from the performance churned out by the young Tribesmen in the curtain-raiser.
This was a highly fancied Cork side taking on a Galway side not really fancied at all, even by those out west. And when Brian Turnbull pulled to the net after a mere seven seconds, followed by an Evan Sheehan major on 12 minutes, you expected this minor final to run along expected lines.
Galway found themselves 2-3 to 0-3 behind following Sheehan’s superb run and finish, but, crucially, didn’t lose heart. Daniel Loftus, despite wearing number three on his back, popped up at the other end of the field and his point was added to by a Conor Molloy free. Ship steadied.
Daire Connery and the lively Brian Turnbull cancelled out these two points and that’s pretty much how the remainder of the opening period played out; Cork matching whatever Galway could muster. That was until just before the call for half-time.
Galway’s Donal Mannion, elevated to the starting team following his noted contribution when introduced in the semi-final, was the sole forward in maroon to trouble the Cork rearguard early on. His direct running was causing problems for Denis Ring’s defence and, as well as hitting their opening score, he also won a free or two.
Seán Bleahane, stationed inside with Mannion, grew into proceedings as the half wore on and, set-up by Mannion, he fired over his third in a row to reduce the gap to 2-7 to 0-9. Manageable. Indeed, a Conor Molloy free thereafter brought it back to a one-score game come the break.
Jack Canning was the third member of Galway’s inside line. Having clipped 1-4 in the semi-final win over Kilkenny, he was rightly identified as the leader of this Galway attack. His opening half-hour went anything but to plan, however.
In typical Canning fashion, though, he returned for the second period, confidence unharmed, and had the sliotar in the Cork net come the 31st minute. Level game. The next six scores were shared evenly and then on 38 minutes, Canning fielded a Conor Walsh delivery on the edge of the square, turned Sean O’Leary Hayes, and rifled the leather high into the roof of Ger
Collins’ net. It was the first time Galway led and they’d not be caught from there.
Mind you, the scoreboard did have them level on 40 minutes, temporarily at that. Brian Roche’s shot from out on the Cusack Stand side went all the way to the Galway net. The green flag was raised, but following consultation with his umpires, Seán Cleere disallowed the goal for a square ball — Robert Downey was deemed to have been in the small parallelogram as Roche took aim.
Liam O’Shea did strike the next score for the Munster champions, but the westerners had the bit between their teeth and reeled off three unanswered scores from Conor Molloy (free), Seán Bleahane, and Jack Canning to move 2-16 to 2-11 clear.
Beyond Canning’s 48th-minute over-the-shoulder effort, Galway would only add to their tally once more. Sub Barry Murphy, Robert Downey, and a pair from Turnbull brought the young Rebels within two. No closer could they come. Craig Hanafin had a half-chance at goal smothered, while Daire Connery and Sean O’Leary Hayes both struck wide late on.
Similar to the semi-final, Cork showed an over-reliance on Brian Turnbull in both the scoring and enterprise departments. Liam O’Shea did have a fine hour and while Evan Sheehan was menacing in patches, not enough Cork forwards won their individual battles.
So, further minor success for Galway. On this occasion, though, the Irish Press Cup won’t be the sole piece of silverware crossing the Shannon later today. “It is absolutely unbelievable,” said Jack Canning, nephew of Joe.
“Starting up at U6s, this is what you dream of. I had a terrible first-half myself, but we reset at half-time and, lucky enough, it worked out for us in the end.”
J Canning (2-2); C Molloy (0-7, 0-7 frees); S Bleahane (0-5); D Mannion, D Loftus, B Moran (0-1 each).
B Turnbull (1-7, 0-3 frees); L O’Shea (0-3); E Sheehan (1-0); C Hanafin (0-2); D Connery, R Downey, B Murphy (0-1 each).
D Fahy (Ardrahan); D Morrissey (Sarsfields), M Gill (Castlegar), C Killeen ( Loughrea); R Glennon (Mullagh), D Loftus (Turloughmore), C Caulfield (Kilconieron); C Fahy (Padraig Pearses), C Walsh (Turloughmore); M McManus (Loughrea), C Molloy (Kilnadeema-Leitrim), B Moran (Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry); J Canning (Portumna), D Mannion (Cappataggle), S Bleahane (Ahascragh/Fohenagh).
S Ryan (Clarenbridge) for McManus (HT); S McArdle (Clarenbridge) for Loftus (53); M Kennedy (Clarenbridge) for Moran (55); E Fahy (Kilbeacanty) for Walsh (61).
G Collins (Ballinhassig); E Roche (Bride Rovers), G Millerick (Fr O’Neill’s), S O’Leary Hayes (Mildeton); J Keating (Kildorrery), C O’Callaghan (Dromtarriffe), A Walsh Barry (Carrigtwohill); D Connery (Na Piarsaigh), B Roche (Bride Rovers); C Hanafin (Na Piarsaigh), L O’Shea (Lisgoold), L Linehan (Ballyhooly); E Sheehan (Na Piarsaigh), R Downey (Glen Rovers), B Turnbull (Douglas).
D Hanlon (Blarney) for Linehan (39 mins); B Murphy (Castlelyons) for Walsh Barry (45).
S Cleere (Kilkenny).