Photo: Western People
It’s big ball stuff on a wall-to-wall basis right now but it’d be remiss not to give a mention to the county’s U21 hurlers who have a huge day ahead of them tomorrow. This comes in the form of the All-Ireland U21 B final against Meath at the cathedral of hurling, Semple Stadium in Thurles, where throw-in is set for 3pm. It’s the curtain-raiser to tomorrow evening’s U21 A final between Waterford and Galway and it’ll be broadcast live on TG4.
Meath are sure to be a tough nut to crack tomorrow. The Royals ended our hopes in this competition last year at the semi-final stage and while they lost last year’s decider to Wicklow they got revenge on the Garden County in this year’s quarter-final, thumping them by 1-22 to 0-12. The young Royals then racked up another big score in seeing off Kerry, by 1-21 to 1-12, in the semi-final.
Our lads have played three games to reach this year’s Richie McElligot Cup decider. The first one was a Connacht final against Roscommon, which we won decisively by 3-20 to 1-8, and this was followed by a narrow 0-8 to 0-6 quarter-final win over Kildare at Newbridge early in August. Then it was the Rossies again in the semi-final last month at MacHale Park, which was a far tighter contest that was eventually won courtesy of an injury-time point from Zac O’Toole on a scoreline of 0-13 to 2-6.
A few points are noteworthy about our bunch of young hurlers. The first is that All-Ireland hurling honours are nothing new to them as many of the team that’ll line out in Thurles tomorrow already have Minor C medals in their possession. As a group, they’re used to excelling at national level and it’s great to see this level of performance being maintained at U21.
The second is that, for a number of the lads, the All-Ireland medal count is becoming an impressive one. As well as those Minor honours that most of the lads have, six of tomorrow’s panel also featured in the senior hurling squad that won the Nicky Rackard Cup earlier in the summer. In addition, three of these lads – Aghamore duo David Kenny and Fergal Boland as well as Morgan Lyons from Ballyhaunis – won U21 medals with the footballers back in May. Three All-Ireland medals bagged in one year sure would be one hell of an achievement.
By the way, in case you think I’ve suddenly become an expert in underage hurling within the county, think again – the bulk of that info above comes from my reading of the excellent preview of tomorrow’s final by Mark Higgins in this week’s Western People. If you want to get some good in-depth background on the team ahead of tomorrow’s decider then you should get your hands on the paper.
Best of luck to the lads tomorrow as they aim for further hurling glory with the county.