Semple Stadium will come alive this Saturday as the last four teams standing will come together to decide the pairing for this year’s Bord Gais Energy U21 All Ireland Hurling Final. And with the Cross Of Cashel retired after last year’s competition there will be a brand new trophy at stake for this year’s victors.
There will be no Clare or Wexford who have owned the final pairings in the past number of years, not even last year’s Champions Limerick are in the frame for a final position.
One thing we know is there won’t be a repeat of the 2011 final were Dublin and Galway squared off, with the Tribesmen running out the victors. They face each other this weekend with only one advancing to the September 10th Final. And they’ll face the winners of Antrim and Waterford.
Joe Fortune’s men have had a quite impressive run in the provincial championship this year lifting their sixth Leinster title. On their travels they have shaken off the tough challenges of Wexford, Westmeath and Offaly respectively.
The Dublin boss, as ever, is intent on fine tuning their consistency going into Saturday’s must win battle. Fortune admits some slow starts in their Leinster games have been a topic of discussion with the panel and this weekend, starting well will be significant.
“I think it goes without saying that we cannot afford another slow start like we have had at stages of the year”, he explained to the Herald.
From my perspective, it has been a problem this year and while it has been very encouraging in the manner in which the players have regrouped during matches and finished strongly, it’s not something that we’d like to see repeated at the weekend”.
This championship competition is yet another that dishes up a massive break between the end of provincial games and the beginning of the All Ireland. Dublin won the Leinster title against Offaly on July 6th, which is six weeks since they’ve been in competitive action.
“In some ways, it has been quite frustrating that any momentum that we generated through Leinster is not especially valid now” he admitted, “but all our focus since we resumed has been on getting ourselves right for the 20th of August”
“The lads have been in good form in training and we have played some decent challenge games against Cuala and Clare of late, which have helped get us right for Saturday”.
Ger Cunningham’s Senior panel had the pleasure of having up to nine of Joe’s U21’s involved with them up to their defeat to Cork in this year’s championship, but having them back has brought the needed stability onto the training ground again.
“The seniors have come back and have really stepped it up”.
“The attitude of all the players has been excellent and as a group of players, I couldn’t commend them enough”.
As with any year, playing Galway at this stage can be quite the unknown. With no provincial competition, the Tribesmen have the advantage of taking their bow this Saturday.
Their record at this grade is impressive, playing in twenty finals, and winning ten titles. The panel will be a good mix of some of their eligible seniors and last year’s All Ireland winning Minors.
But the unknown is not on Fortune’s mind and the Dublin boss remains confident that his team can produce a performance worthy of a final berth.
“Galway are a very decent team that are backboned by three or four of their senior panel and are a typical Galway team in that they are physical but are also blessed with high-scoring forwards”.
“To be honest we can’t wait for the game”.