Three key questions to be answered by the next generation this summer
Can anyone break the Galway-Kilkenny-Tipperary vice-grip in minor hurling?
The stats underline the scale of dominance this hurling triumvirate have exerted in the minor grade.
They have carved up the last 10 All-Ireland minor titles between them — Galway (four), Kilkenny (four) and Tipperary (two) — six of those finals have been contested between two of the three counties.
All three counties look in rude health again. Reigning champions Galway have a few superb players in Jason Flynn, Paul Killeen and Brian Molloy, Kilkenny are spearheaded by Michael Donnelly, Conor Martin and Jack McDowell. Tipp will be inspired by John McGrath, Thomas Hamill and Mark McCarthy. It’s difficult to look past them.
Yet Wexford will be emboldened by their recent triumph in Leinster over Dublin where star man, Tony French, shot 0-15.
In Munster three other counties still have title aspirations ahead of their semi-final showdowns on June 29, with brilliant marksmen to call upon in Bobby Duggan (Clare), Ronan Lynch (Limerick) and Stephen Bennett (Waterford).
Can Clare build on minor marvels to thrive in the U21 grade?
It is something of a mystery that the Irish Press Cup was not hoisted by a Banner player over the past two years, given the quality and style of hurling they produced in claiming back-to-back Munster minor titles.
The flip side, of course, is that Clare have a huge amount of talent from their 2010 and 2011 minor teams that can be channelled into their 2012 U21 side. Paul Flanagan and Seadna Morey are outstanding defenders, Tony Kelly provides class in midfield while Daire Keane and Aaron Cunningham are sharpshooters up front. In addition to those recent minors, Clare can also call on established seniors with Tubber defender Patrick O’Connor and Cratloe attackers Conor McGrath and Cathal McInerney, all accruing valuable experience last year.
Just like minor and U21 success are no guarantee of future performance at senior level, U21 squads cannot be banked to deliver silverware on the back of minor progress.
Clare face a tricky first hurdle in Munster against Waterford on July 19. But they have a strong squad and astute management in Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney.
Will someone follow the Tipperary spring rising in this year’s All-Ireland MFC?
It remains one of the most uplifting GAA stories of 2011. 66/1 shot Tipp’s break from the minor football pack to morph into title winners in Croke Park in September. Will the 2012 equivalent see a similar tale of joy?
The reigning champions have given themselves a decent shot of repeating, with a Munster semi-final victory over Cork last week ensuring the last eight in August with, it should be remembered, a large chunk of last year’s team.
History suggests they’ll need to be on their guard in the provincial decider against a Kerry side who have shown clear signs of improvement. In the other provinces, league form indicates Roscommon and Tyrone must be watched. Roscommon’s underage inter-county record has been sparkling in recent seasons and they had an unblemished record in the Connacht minor football league. Tyrone were similarly impressive in sweeping league honours in Ulster. In Leinster, Dublin and Kildare’s minor outfits are both dangerous. in
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved