GAELIC GAMES NEWS: IT’S A busy week for the Bórd Gáis Energy GAA Under-21 hurling championship. The final takes place under lights in Thurles tomorrow evening, the second year of the new arrangement, making Semple Stadium the permanent home for the championship climax.
Tuesday also saw Ger Cunningham, Bórd Gáis sponsorship manager, ratified as one of the new Cork management team to be headed by Jimmy Barry-Murphy.
At yesterday’s media conference for tomorrow’s final, both captains spoke after very different years with their respective senior teams.
Liam Rushe, now an established senior player, won a National League medal, as Dublin took the title for the first time in 72 years and played a leading role in the county’s valiant resistance in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary, whereas Barry Daly, still making his way at the top level, shared in the disappointment of Galway’s dismal championship.
“It’s been a success,” said Rushe reviewing the under-21 campaign. “We’re the first Dublin under-21s to win back-to-back Leinster titles and that final in Wexford Park was harder to win than you might imagine from the scoreline (a 10-point win).
“Losing to Tipperary was devastating. It was a bit more difficult to go back training and the week after was tough but by the time we played Antrim (in the All-Ireland semi-final) everything was back on track.
“It’s a fantastic competition, almost as good as senior, maybe not as physically strong but getting stronger by the year. It’s more open and you get bigger score-lines probably because teams aren’t as structured; there’s a lot of tactics at senior level.”
But for Daly the year has still been a positive one with his club Clarinbridge winning the All-Ireland club title last St Patrick’s Day.
“The club was fantastic but this is up there with it. It was a big occasion for the club. We’d only been in the final once before (2002, in Thurles) and a lot of lads hadn’t played before in Croke Park.
“One lesson is to be more relaxed and not to panic. Dublin will come hard at us. But when we played De La Salle (the Waterford champions Clarinbridge defeated in one of the matches of the year in the All-Ireland semi-final) we didn’t panic and it came right for us.”
At underage, Galway have the disadvantage of not competing in a provincial championship and each year of going into All-Ireland semi-finals against battle-hardened teams.
“It’s hard enough but we wouldn’t use it as an excuse,” according to Daly. “You have to build the intensity in training and get to that pitch right from the start. It worked well in the semi-final and the Limerick game will bring us on.”
Tomorrow will see Galway arrive in Thurles in far better spirits than 12 months ago. There was bad feeling about having to face Tipperary in their home venue just six days after their opponents had brought home the MacCarthy Cup.
This time it’s Galway’s minors who have won the recent All-Ireland and the mood is good in the county, a big contrast to 2010, as Daly recalls.
“Last year there was huge hype after Tipp had just won the All-Ireland and there was talk that they were the best under-21 team of all time. Then there was the controversy over the venue. On the Tuesday before we still weren’t sure it was going to be in Thurles.”
Asked about the perennially sorrowful mystery of Galway hurling, the failure to translate underage success onto the senior stage, Daly has no dramatic insights.
“I don’t have the answer to that. There’s a lot of people in the county looking for that answer.”
Next weekend Dublin’s seniors and minors will be in Croke Park on All-Ireland football finals day. But Rushe is focused on more pressing business. “We’re totally separate in that we’ve got our own business to attend to so, apart from the scramble for tickets, it’s not affecting me.”