Kenny says U-21 clash is not a pointer to senior game

There will be those who think last Saturday’s All-Ireland U21 hurling semi-final win by Kilkenny over Galway in Thurles is a guide towards what’s likely to happen in the senior final.

After all Kilkenny had just Cillian Buckley, Richie Doyle and Walter Walsh representing the panel that beat Tipperary in the All-Ireland senior semi-final and none of them started. Galway had 14 of the 26 senior panellists from their semi-final win over Cork while Johnny Coen, James Regan, Niall Burke and Conor Cooney all started.

But Mattie Kenny, a selector to the Galway U-21s and seniors, believes any such thoughts would be foolish.

“When we got the job back in October we picked a very young senior squad,” he said. “We wanted to build a new Galway team so it was heavily based on last year’s U21 team and last year’s All-Ireland winning minor team. But every team is different. Every game is different. If this game were played again tomorrow it would be a different game again.

“It’s all about what happens on the day and Kilkenny were very sharp. We knew coming in they had six very good forwards. They got the goals at vital times.”

For those who measure the quality of an U-21 purely on the basis of how many senior panellists they have, that’s a very salient point. Kilkenny have six very good forwards but when you have Henry Shefflin, Eoin Larkin, Richie Power, Aidan Fogarty, TJ Reid, Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan in the senior setup, who do you drop?

Rest assured we’ll be hearing from Walter Walsh, John Power, Ger Aylward, Kevin Kelly, Pádraig Walsh and Ollie Walsh in the not-too-distant future.

There are more relevant things to discuss. First and foremost — is it time for the GAA to finally address the total imbalance in the minor and U-21 structures and do what’s been done with the seniors by bringing Antrim and Galway into the Leinster championship?

This was Galway’s first and last competitive game of the 2012 season. What benefit is it to those players and hurling in general? Oddly enough, Mattie didn’t appear to be overly concerned.

“Definitely, the more games you have the better your chance of having lads playing well together,” he said. “The system that was there served us very well last year against a very hot Limerick team. I was down at the Munster final between Cork and Limerick and that was a classic game of hurling. We went into that semi-final without a game and it didn’t do us any harm.”

No, and in fact Galway went on to win the All-Ireland final, beating Dublin. Surely though they would be better off in Leinster?

Even an open draw would be better again but judging by the reaction of Kilkenny manager Richie Mulrooney, there’s no appetite for that.

“We value our provincial championship very highly, hadn’t won the Leinster title since 2009.

“We had three aims at the start of this year; one, win the Leinster championship; two, try and win the All-Ireland title and three, and the most important of the three, make sure there was player development for the seniors.

“We have two and a half done but that’s all. As regards an open draw, I like the situation where we have a Leinster championship, and this system has served Galway well in the past, they’ve been the flag-bearers.”


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