The Kilkenny stars of tomorrow will get their chance to shine at Nowlan Park on Sunday when the minor hurling decider will get county final day proceedings underway.
Battling it out for the honours will be the Rower-Inistioge, who will be hoping to complete the intermediate/minor hurling championship double, and O’Loughlin Gaels, who are a team with oceans of talent.
There is some smashing talent at under-age level in the county, which was reflected in schools from the county qualifying for the latter stages of the All-Ireland colleges championship for the past two years. Early travellers to the ’Park will get the chance to run the role over the cream of the crop, and they should be in for a treat.
This pair saw off last year’s finalists, James Stephens (champions) and Dicksboro in the semi-finals two weeks ago. Those games didn’t exactly set the scene alight. Defences dominated, but general form would suggest both clubs have a lot more to offer.
O’Loughlin’s, who pack their defence at times, didn’t give much away to city rivals, James Stephens. In fact, the then champions were restricted to a mere two scores from play from a nine point overall take. The O’Loughlin’s defence can take a lot of credit for that, and a repeat showing would take them very close to winning the title.
The Rower semi-final against Dicksboro was a more open affair. What really impressed here was the way the Rower handled the pressure when the game was there for the winning and losing heading into the closing stages. They never flinched.
A goal from Sean Grace in the 44th minute edged them a good bit up the road towards victory. When David Kelly added a second in the 55th minute (the final score was 2-10 to 0-11) there was no catching them.
The strength of that performance would suggest the Rower have a slight edge going into this showdown. Kelly, Grace and Darragh Joyce would be among their team leaders, while Pat Lyng and Ciaran Ryan are another pair of excellent hurlers.
The beauty of these finals is that quite often someone, be it an individual or line on a team, can perform beyond all expectations and that can make a huge difference.
To win a minor championship, especially this Roinn A one, is a big, big deal and the confidence it can give a player can make a huge difference to his career. We await the delights with high hopes.
Rower-Inistioge - Shane Foskin, Kieran Meaney, John Murphy, Diarmuid O’Brien, Pat Lyng, Ciaran Ryan, Shane Ryan, Richard Leahy, Darragh Joyce, Cathal Bolger (capt), William Allen, Tony Whelan, David Kelly, Sean Grace, Kevin Murphy, Dylan Kehoe, Patrick Lyng, Jim Murphy, Sam Watkins, Jack Walsh, Robbie Walsh, Tomas Allen, Jim Ryan, Henry Tennyson.
Team officials - Michael Roche (trainer), Brian Kehoe, Jack Lyng, Michael Tierney, Ger Lyster.
O’Loughlin Gaels - Paddy Deegan, Sean Bolger, Danny Bolger, Dan O’Driscoll, Robbie O’Driscoll, Brian Buckley, Robbie Buckley, Gary Bryan, Hugh Lawlor, Vinny Wallace, Thomas Gleeson, James Lenihan, Luke Rafter, Ross butler, Ben Leydon, Danie O’Connor, Shane Maher, Cian Loy, Seamus McGrath, Jamie Kavanagh, Brian Slattery, Shane O’Brien, Eoin Croghan (inj), Gary Kelly (inj).
Team officials - Michael Holohan, Andy Comerford, Jimmy Comerford.