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Galway and Kilkenny meet in the Electric Ireland Minor Hurling championship on Sunday for the first time since last year’s All Ireland final which saw the Tribesmen trumping the Cats by seven points.
Minor has become a grade in which Galway have flourished in recent times, last year’s victory marking back-to-back All Ireland titles, a feat they last achieved back in 2005.
On that day 14 years ago, Joe Canning was the name on everyone’s lips after he scored 1-3 in their final defeat of Limerick. However, it was the year previous that the Portumna man made his debut for the Galway minors at 15 years of age.
That year, Galway beat Kilkenny in the decider after a thrilling replay, marking a first All Ireland title for Canning.
Ahead of this weekend’s quarter-final clash, we take a trip down memory lane to recall the drawn final between Galway and Kilkenny, as well as the subsequent replay.
September 12, 2004, Croke Park: Galway 3-12 Kilkenny 1-18
Kilkenny went into the clash on the hunt for their third All Ireland title in a row but it took a late point by 16-year-old Richie Hogan in injury time to rescue a draw against Galway.
The game was a low-scoring affair in the opening minutes with both sets of defences dominating while the teams struggled to find their feet in the game.
It was Galway who settled first and points from Karl Wade and Brian Hanley fired them into the lead and it was the former who hit the net first for the Tribesmen when he brilliantly pounced on a poor Kilkenny clearance.
The Cats then missed a clear goal chance and with momentum on their side, Galway raced into a seven-point lead with minutes remaining in the first half.
Undeterred by the deficit, Kilkenny pulled back three points before the break, through Eoin Guinan and Gavin Nolan, to put themselves back in contention.
The Cats made a blistering start to the second half with points from Gavin and Maurice Nolan and soon brought the game level but it was in the final 10 minutes of this game when tensions reached boiling point.
Brian Hanley and substitute, Matthew Ruth, swapped goals before Guinan finally gave Kilkenny the lead with the minutes ticking away.
Galway weren’t finished yet and when Hanley hit for his second goal of the game, a deflection off a Kilkenny defender, it seemed as though the Irish Press Cup was heading to the west.
However, like all good Kilkenny teams, you couldn’t write off this minor side until the final whistle. They scored the final points of the game, including an effort from corner-forward Hogan to send the game to a draw.
September 19, 2004, O’Connor Park: Galway 0-16 Kilkenny 1-12
A bumper crowd flooded into O’Connor Park in Tullamore for the highly-anticipated replay a week later. The game would be remembered for a number of reasons, one of which was the arrival of young Joe Canning from Portumna. A raw fifteen-year-old, Canning announced his arrival on the national stage as he starred for the Tribesmen with four points, including two excellent sideline cuts.
Indeed, it was the 15-year-old who opened the scoring after less than a minute. However, the Cats truck first blood when Eoin Guinan connected with a line ball from Richie Hogan and buried it past Mark Herlihy. Canning gave us an insight into what would become a trademark of his career, as he scored his first sideline cut with just minutes remaining until the break. Karl Wade added two frees, and it brought Galway level at the half-time whistle.
The second half was a highly-entertaining affair and Galway came roaring into life with three quick points in the opening minutes, two frees from Wade and a third score from Kevin Hynes.
Kilkenny responded well through Maurice Nolan but a determined Galway side refused to give up their lead. Wade, Hynes and Finian Coone all struck points to leave them four points adrift of the reigning champions within the closing five minutes.
Just as Galway looked to have one hand on the title, Kilkenny went on the attack again through Nolan and Neal Prendergast and they managed to reduce the gap to just one point. The Cats went on the hunt for the equalising score to send the game to extra-time but were unable to find it, sending two efforts wide of the target.
Eventually, referee Brian Gavin blew the full-time whistle, signalling an outpouring of joy from the Galway players and their sizeable travelling support. Mattie Murphy’s side lifted the Irish Press Cup for the first time since 2000. The experiences Joe Canning encountered at minor level on that historic day would inevitably lay the groundwork for a stunning career for the county’s senior team in years to come, leading him up the steps of Croker as an All Ireland winner once more.
Brought to you by Electric Ireland
Minor players are embarking on their adult lives. They have hopes, dreams, pressures, distractions and ambitions, but for this one moment in time, the Electric Ireland Minor Championships is the major thing in their lives.
Follow the conversation at #GAAThisIsMajor or be a part of the action; watch a selection of the GAA Minor Hurling & Football matches live, join in the pre-game ritual of the Championship Haircut at the provincial finals or vote for your Minor Player of the week, with all nominated players in with a chance of making the Electric Ireland Minor Team of the Year 2019.
Find all information on https://www.electricireland.ie/gaa-minor-championships.