With the World Cup on hiatus, Irish sports fans turned their attention to the U21 hurling last night and they weren’t disappointed. Here’s the major talking points from both the Leinster and Munster finals.
Cork’s second Munster title in four days
What a week to be a Cork GAA fan. First the senior Munster title and now a U21 trophy to add to the cabinet. While many would have predicted a Cork win, it was the ferocity and ease of that win that was surprising.
Darragh Fitzgibbon was withdrawn after 20 minutes due to illness but the Rebels were undeterred and proceeded to dismantle the Tipp setup. Midway through the first half Robbie O’Flynn got Cork’s first goal and there was no stopping them from there. To their credit, Tipp battled to the very end but they were up against a far superior side.
It’s not surprising when you think that 10 of these players also feature on John Meyler’s senior panel. You have to wonder how many more trophies will these young lads win before the season is out?
Galway’s stunning last minute goal snatches victory
While Cork were flying in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, up in Portlaoise it was a much more dramatic affair as a goal in the last ten seconds of extra time saw Galway lift the trophy in their first year in the Leinster championship at this grade.
The Tribesmen looked to have the game won in normal time when they led by three points with five minutes to go but Wexford retaliated, spearheaded by the inspirational Rory O’Connor and a last minute goal from Ian Carthy sent the game to extra-time.
But the real drama was yet to come. Wexford stormed into the lead in extra time and although Galway edged their way back into it, they still found themselves two points down with seconds to go. Enter Sean Bleahene who had been substituted in normal time. It was his stunning finish in a packed square that broke Wexford hearts.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 4, 2018
Where to now for Tipperary?
The Tipperary minors gave the Premier County a much needed boost on Sunday when they claimed their second Munster title in three years and the U21’s were hoping to follow that trend. Disappointingly for them, that did not transpire as they came up against a much more clinical, organised and physical side in Cork and Tipp had no answers.
It was a major setback for Liam Cahill’s side but they do have a chance to redeem themselves. The new system this year means they have a second chance and are through to the All Ireland semi-final. This is a talented side with plenty of talent in the likes of Jake Morris, Ger Browne and Brian McGrath. And let’s not forget that they knocked out the reigning champions, Limerick.
A very tough task awaits them in the form of Galway who are flying high at the moment.
Wexford down but by no means out
What made the Leinster final such a thrilling encounter was that these were two evenly matched teams. This is a Wexford side littered with established and up-and-coming stars from Rory O’Connor to Damien Reck to Seamus Casey who finished the day with a tally of 1-11.
The Model county have been one of the leading counties in this grade and have set the standard over the past number of years. They have won the Leinster title three times since 2013. Last night was a blow for them, having staged a come-back to force extra-time, surged into the lead only to concede the goal in the dying seconds.
They are back in action come the August bank holiday weekend and they will not fear the Munster champions.
Young guns prove why this tournament is special
People talk about the drama created by the round robin series this year. They discuss the unpredictable nature of the Munster championship and the skill on display in Leinster. The U21 championship is not really a common topic of conversation among neutrals but last night might have well changed that.
With the absence of the World Cup, sports fans turned their attention to TG4 with the Munster final live on television while Wexford and Galway featured online. Not long into the game the website crashed, such was the demand for the online stream.
People were drawn to the game not out of boredom but because of the level of skill, the drama and the outrageous scores. The U21 is a very unique and special tournament and it deserves to be preserved. There was a surprisingly small crowd in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last night but with the feast of hurling on the television, many more supporters will be travelling to the semi-finals to see the action unfold in front of their very eyes.