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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 21 April 2021
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'I'm still pinching myself. I'm still trying to figure out how it happened'

Galway midfielder Tomas Monaghan and manager Tony Ward spoke after their stunning Leinster U21 hurling final victory last night.

Kevin O’Brien reports from O’Moore Park, Portlaoise

GALWAY’S FIRST EVER Leinster U21 hurling title arrived last night courtesy of a Sean Bleahene goal with the last puck in extra-time, which turned certain defeat into victory.

Fintan Burke lifts the trophy Galway captain Fintan Burke lifts the trophy Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

It was the most dramatic of finishes to an enthralling contest and it understandably took some time for the result to sink in with the Galway players and manager.

“I’m still pinching myself,” Tribe midfielder Tomas Monaghan told The42. “I’m still trying to figure out how it happened. It was brilliant.

“We had a never say die attitude and Wexford were absolutely top class as well. The U21 championship just seems to throw up these classics.

“Sean Bleahene came back in there and f*cking got a goal. We just spoke about never giving up. We were a bit disappointed about throwing it away at the end of normal time but it was great to win in at the end.”

Bleahene was withdrawn in the third quarter but Galway boss Tony Ward made the brave call to reintroduce the full-forward in the 77th minute and it proved to be a masterstroke.

“It’s fairytale stuff,” said an overjoyed Ward on the field afterwards. “We conceded a goal when we should have had the game kind of put to bed.

“To bring Sean off the bench again and to score the winning goal…It’s heartbreaking for Wexford to lose a game that way but we’re over the moon. Jesus, it’s hard to believe. You’re still pinching yourself.

“I think we were three points down in extra-time and we were just saying, ‘We had it all to do, we’re going to need the goal.’ Thanks, be to God we got it.

Cianan Fahy and Eanna Murphy celebrate after the final whistle Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“What’s inside in them boys and what was inside in that dressing room at half-time is something else. I’ve worked with a lot of teams, but the heart that’s in these boys is something else.

“They fight for each other. Even the guys that were on the extended panel, they were in there in the dressing room before going out for extra-time and they were just urging the boys on. They wanted this so much and they made history tonight.”

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Galway were denied the win at the very end of normal-time when Wexford netted a last-ditch goal through defender Ian Carthy in the sixth minute of stoppage-time.

“We didn’t focus as such on the goal they got, we tried to focus on what we could ourselves,” Monaghan explained about their mindset heading into extra-time. “We spoke about the amount of fitness work we’ve done and having the attitude to go and do it. Go out again and go to the well again.

“Thankfully we did, now it was nip and tuck the whole way. Wexford will be saying the same, they’ll be dissapointed not to see it out but it was a fantastic game.”

Senior panellist Monaghan finished with 1-2 from midfield, including an outstanding solo goal in the opening period. “To be honest, when Sean Bleahene passed it out I thought there was no-one around me,” he said about his well-taken three-pointer.

“The minute I could feel someone behind me I said, ‘Lookit, I’m just going to go for it now.’ It was early in the game and I just said, ‘Why not.’ I went on the run and the longer it went on the more I had to go and finish it. Thankfully it went into the back of the net. It was lucky really more than anything.”

Thomas Monaghan celebrates scoring a goal Monaghan celebrates his first-half wonder goal Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

This was Galway’s first season to compete in Leinster at this grade after years of entering the All-Ireland race at the semi-final stage. Both Ward and Monaghan spoke about how beneficial those extra games in the province are to the development of U21 hurlers in the county.

“It means a lot,” said Ward. “The fact we’re going on now playing our fourth game, for years it took four years to get four games into a Galway U21 team.

“It’s brilliant for this bunch of lads, it’s a unique time for Galway U21 hurling to be here in Leinster and to win it, my God. To win it the way we won it, it’s crazy stuff.”

Monaghan added: “The thing we’re really thankful for is that we’ve got into the provincial championship now and we got to play a few games. We played Offaly, Kilkenny and tonight was nearly like two matches. It was just mighty to get the games in in Leinster.”

The competition takes a break now until the All-Ireland semi-finals on the August Bank Holiday weekend when Galway will face beaten Munster finalists Tipperary, while Wexford take on provincial champions Cork.

“We could (meet Wexford again) and you know what? I wouldn’t begrudge Wexford getting to an All-Ireland final,” said Ward. “They’re a fine side, a fine side.”

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Bleahene breaks Wexford hearts with last second goal to seal Galway’s first Leinster U21 title

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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