The “dream final”, is how Galway minor hurling manager Brian Hanley describes tomorrow’s date with Kilkenny, even if he would have preferred a few more championship outings en-route.
The Galway minors began their championship campaign at Croke Park on Sunday, July 14 against Kilkenny and so it is that their season will wrap up at the same venue, against the same opposition, some five short weeks later.
The format of the All-Ireland MHC was changed last year, with Galway now afforded two round-robin fixtures when entering the race at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage. This compares favourably to the old system in which the county’s opening game had always been straight knockout. Imbalances remain, however. Kilkenny opened their championship account on April 27 and have played almost three times as many games as the young Tribes. Hanley, though far from cribbing, knows their opponents will have benefited from such a fixtures programme.
Galway, who are chasing a first-ever three-in-a-row of minor titles, edged their quarter-final round-robin meeting earlier in the summer, having opened up a 12-point lead shortly before half-time.
Richie Mulrooney’s charges stormed back into proceedings upon the restart and were level, at 2-12 apiece, 10 minutes from time. A Sean McDonagh goal in the closing stages proved the vital score as the westerners won 3-16 to 2-16.
“That was our first game and, to be fair, Kilkenny have really, really improved since that. They defeated Limerick, a well-fancied team who have beaten us twice this year [in challenge games],” said Hanley is in his first year as Galway minor boss, having previously served three years as Westmeath senior manager (2012-14).
They gave Limerick a good beating in the semi-final and it was probably as good a performance as I’ve seen from a minor team in years.
"But this is their ninth game coming up, it’s our fourth. If we’d another six games, our team could take a different shape. But the system is what it is.
“We’re delighted to be in a final. It’s probably the dream final for us. A Galway-Kilkenny final is what you live for.”
Hanley, a three-time All-Ireland club winner with Athenry, was extremely pleased with how his players reacted and behaved following the push on Shane Morgan which held up the end of their All-Ireland semi-final against Wexford by 10 minutes as the player was attended to.
“None of our players reacted, none of our players got entangled in it, and none of us abused the referee or the umpires. That’s part of the respect value of our culture. And that’s very, very important. You see here our core values are on our wristband -respect, positivity, communication, and teamwork.
"They’re the stuff we’re trying to preach and develop. It’s for outside of hurling as much as it is for hurling. We’re just providing an education within the academy system for both players and coaches.”