The Michael Flannery Cup, also known as the New York senior hurling title, has had many winners over the years. Only one side has achieved the five in a row, Tipperary from 1952 to ’56, while Offaly have a four in a row previously from 1925 to ‘28.
In the title holding bracket Tipperary has 25 while Galway on 16 is hoping to tie Offaly at one better if the Tribe wins the New York senior hurling title on Sunday. Offaly looks to continue their historic run with title number 18.
The hurling championship in the last few years has dwindled in numbers, that is true to say. The fire that is involved has remained the same, however, with Tipperary, Offaly and Galway battling over a 10 week period for supremacy. And no quarter given or asked for.
Offaly have one player who will be looking for his fifth medal in a row as a starter in Donie Broderick, while Richie Gaule also has the four previous.
The Offaly side is brilliantly balanced this year, with Brian McNaughton very dependable in goal. Some of the constants in the back line have been Dermot Lyng, Brendan McGourty and Sean Sullivan. McGourty is fearless under the dropping ball and a brilliant stick man. Sometimes he moves to the wing allowing Gaule to man the center which gives them a dominant impact under the puck outs from the opponents end.
Eoin Drumgoole and Shane Kelly complement each other in the middle; both are very good link men.
Up front the danger increases. Pat Hartley, who was on the Kilkenny panel earlier in the year, is at center forward. We all know how good the Cats are which tells you about Hartley.
Shane Sweeney and Shane McNaughton are scoring phenoms inside, and with the addition of Galway senior Cyril Donnellon to the mix they will take serious watching.
Galway will know the challenge ahead of them, but returning to the county final after a long absence, they will be delighted to take it on. They had a very good win over Tipperary last Sunday, with Aiden Harte leading the way with nine points.
The full back line of David Lynch and Paul Greville had a brilliant semi and they will have no fears this week.
Shane Kavanagh adds steel at number six, and his battle with Donnellon or Hartley may well decide the mantle that the Flannery Cup sits on.
John McLoughlin is a tremendous talent both at hurling and football, and he will look to emulate McGourty from a couple of years back with this title first followed by a Cork one with the large ball.
The forward line has some potent players. Aiden Harte is a starter with Gaillimh at home as well as here, and his father Josie played for New York back in the late sixties when he was Aiden’s age.
Kevin Reilly, Aiden Purcell and Robbie Jackson, who steps up from some outstanding displays in the junior championship with Rockland, round out the forward line.
The talent on both sides promises to leave us holding our breaths, and the game is too close to call.