The Michael Flannery Senior Hurling Championship cup will be played for this Sunday at Gaelic Park. It will be the centenary championship game, and 2014 is also the centenary of the Galway Hurling Club, the first winners of the New York hurling championship.
Galway made the final again this year, and they will meet the Long Island Gaels, who are in just their second year in existence.
Michael Flannery was a former president of the New York GAA, a Republican and proud Tipperary man. The New York hurling championship has as its record winners Tipperary. Galway has won 16 titles and were defeated in last year’s final by Tipp.
Long Island on the other hand is a new club with John Carey from Tipperary as their manager. They won the semifinal last season over Tipperary but lost it in the courtroom before topping the group this year and getting a direct route to the final. Galway defeated Ulster on Sunday to earn their final berth.
Who will be crowned the senior hurling champions for 2014? Both sides have their moving stories -- Galway, a first title since 1989 but on the 100 year anniversary, Long Island in only their infancy.
They met once this year with Long Island winning 4-19 to 4-15. It was a game marked by Damien Murray’s 2-5 and Keith Hogan’s 1-8 for the winners, while Robbie Jackson had 1-4 for Galway with James Nolan adding 1-5. Long Island scored four of the last five points with Matt Keating having a man of the match performance.
That may count for nothing as it happened on June 29, an eternity in New York hurling circles. Sunday’s teams will show some resemblance, but Galway in particular has changed dramatically.
Based on the semifinal Galway has a tough decision to make with keepers. Terrance Grogan was the man in nets all year while Richie Gaule went into action Sunday and did well. Grogan is a brilliant shot stopper; Gaule has the towering puck outs.
The defense is set. Gort's Aiden Harte and Loughrea’s Johnny Coen come from the Galway (Ireland) panel, while Ciaran Hoyne and David Healy have both played for Kilkenny at minor and under-21. If Brendan Bulger from Clare is around at 6, it is a very impressive back line.
Coen was outstanding in the victory over Ulster, while Harte’s father played for Galway and New York in the 1960s.
Liam Butler was very effective in the middle of the park and he will have a partner, one would feel, from across the pond. Butler played in last year’s final and has a winner’s medal from his Offaly days.
Up front, it appears that captain Robbie Jackson will again start in that section, although he has been effective as a half back and forward all year. Jackson and Harte may swap.
Brian “Crazy” Glynn was excellent at center forward last Sunday and represented New York last year in Ireland. A great battler, he will create breaks for the wings and can take his own score also.
Conor Cooney and Tadhg Haran have both represented Galway at all levels. Expect Cooney to break out after his disappointing semifinal. James Nolan from Clara is another Kilkenny underage player who has also had runs with the seniors according to my sources.
The bench will have Trevor Vaughan, Tom Foley and Con Butler waiting to join the fray. They look a tough proposition for anyone.
Long Island had a break since their last game but were very impressive in topping the division. Ray Murray is the top keeper in town and has been for a number of years. He’s a brilliant shot stopper, great puck out, fantastic instincts. A great foundation.
Turloughmore in Galway gives the side two players at the defensive end, Cian Morris and Matthew Keating. Keating has represented Galway at minor and under-21 and will be very familiar with the opposition forwards. He has had a wonderful year thus far. Morris is a tough, no nonsense corner who will look forward to a battle with the Liam Mellowe’s Haran.
Tadhg Callaghan is tigerish on the other wing with Conor Lynam at six so far this year. They have had Colin Ryan out in their last game, and the Clare number six would add a huge dimension to the side. David Kenny has been very consistent in the middle of the park and can be relied upon to pop up for a couple of points in every game.
Up front they have a number of attacking options. David Burke, another Galway player and a teammate at St. Thomas’s of Cooney, may start on the 40 or may go to the corner leaving Keith Hogan at 11. Either way he will need serious watching. Excellent at popping up with a goal when needed, Coen may be given the task of watching him.
Damien Murray and Jack Shelly are other forward options. Murray has a sniper’s eye.
It all bodes well for the spectator as it should be a cracking encounter. If I were a betting man I would say Galway 3-18 Long Island 2-15. The forward power may be just too much. Certainly take the over as it will be a high scoring contest.