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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 13 May 2021

Galway's September in Croke Park ends with more hurling wins - 'It's all positive'

It was a good day’s work for Galway hurling at Special Congress.

SEPTEMBER BEGAN IN a blaze of glory for Galway hurling at Croke Park.

Aidan Harte, Jack Grealish and Thomas Monaghan celebrate after the game Aidan Harte, Thomas Monaghan and Jack Grealish celebrate Galway's All-Ireland win. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

On the first Sunday of the month, the county’s senior side finally brought 29 barren years to an end and ensured they would carry the Liam MacCarthy Cup off west for the winter.

The fact that Galway minor team had begun the day on an uplifting note for the county with an All-Ireland victory of their own, reaffirmed that the takeaways from the day were only positive for the county.

Then on the last day of the month, there were a series of positive outcomes off the pitch at Croke Park that provide key improvements for Galway hurling.

A view of the Congress Delegates at Saturday's GAA Special Congress. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

They were a major beneficiary of the introduction at Saturday’s GAA Special Congress of the round-robin format for the provincial championships from 2018 on.

The fact that each county will have two home games realises Galway’s long-held ambition to stage Leinster championship encounters at Pearse Stadium.

The fact that their celebrated attacker Joe Canning has only played twice at the venue in championship hurling, over the course of a decade in senior colours, encapsulated the problem.

Joe Canning gets away from Diarmuid McMahon, John Conlon and Patrick Donnellan Joe Canning in action for Galway against Clare in 2011. Source: James Crombie

“(There’s) capacity of about 30,000 people there, it’s good for Galway GAA and it’s good for the community and the businesses around the Salthill area,” remarked county chairman Pat Kearney.

“It’s bringing two more games there. We were always only guaranteed one or two games there in Connacht, one some years, none other years. At least we’re guaranteed two home games now.

“I’m not pre-empting any situation but the two of them more than likely, (I’m) 90% sure will be held in Pearse Stadium. How good will it be if Kilkenny or Wexford or Dublin or Offaly come to Pearse Stadium? It’s a good day.”

The other bugbear in Galway hurling circles in recent years has been the mistreatment they have perceived of their underage teams. The statistics point to the county being fiercely competitive at minor and U21 level.

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Over the last 15 seasons, they have claimed six All-Ireland minor titles, secured three All-Ireland U21 titles and contested another eight All-Ireland deciders between the two grades.

But the lack of regular games for their younger hurlers has been consistently flagged as an area of concern.

For instance the Galway U21 side posed a tough test to eventual All-Ireland champions Limerick in August’s All-Ireland semi-final.

But they lost out by four points and saw their season end after the entire effort had been condensed into one game.

Jack Coyne dejected Dejected Galway players after their All-Ireland U21 semi-final loss to Limerick. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Their presence on the Leinster U21 stage next year is something they will welcome and if their minor side still are not in provincial action, Kearney is glad of the All-Ireland quarter-final round-robin format that will benefit them.

“After 60-70 training sessions for one game, the U21 was vital today that we got in. We have two minor championship games now but we’re also conscious of the benefit to this for the Ulster counties who will be participating in Leinster as well.

Enda Fahy celebrates after the game with Donal Mannion Galway minor players celebrate September's All-Ireland final win over Corki. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“They’ll have a chance to maybe compete at their own level and be successful as well. We won’t have a repetition of what happened to Derry this year.

“We’re very happy that the Leinster finalists will be in an All-Ireland  (U21) semi-final. That’s a great positive move for us.”

September started with Galway men lifting trophies in the Hogan Stand and the month ended with their chances improved of repeat triumphs taking place.

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Fintan O'Toole

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