MINOR HURLING CLASSICS: SIX OF THE BEST

1987 All-Ireland MHC final: Offaly 2-8 Tipperary 0-12
THE Premier County were installed as favourites for this one, with future superstar John Leahy their stand-out player. They also had future Tipp star Conal Bonnar in the half-backs and current Tipp manager Liam Sheedy at corner-back.
 However, Offaly had reason to be confident, with John Troy, Brian Whelahan, Joe Errity, Johnny and Billy Pilkington. Picking up the Tipp danger man was a promising fifteen-year-old at wing-back, one Johnny Dooley.  The youngster was able to manage Leahy, laying the foundations for Offaly’s second All-Ireland minor victory - which in turn provided the basis for their superb run through the nineties at senior level.

1992 Munster MHC final: Waterford 4-7, Tipperary 3-10 (Replay, Waterford 2-10 Tipperary 0-14).
THE arrival of Paul Flynn. The Ballygunner wizard had many bright days in the Waterford jersey over the next fifteen years, but he announced himself to the hurling world with a staggering 3-6 in the drawn game, including the last-gasp goaled free to force a replay. That sequel wasn’t as dramatic, but victory for the Deise meant a 44-year wait for a provincial title, since 1948, was over.

1995 All-Ireland MHC semi-final, Cork 2-8 Galway 0-12
GALWAY had ten points on the board at the break to Cork’s two, having been powered into that lead by the likes of Kevin Broderick. Cork turned over to play with the breeze and conceded what might have been an utterly fatal goal to the Tribesmen, only for it to be disallowed.
Cork rallied, with future senior stars Joe Deane and Timmy McCarthy chipping in with goals, and they had two points to spare at the final whistle. Like those 1987 Offaly minors, many of the Cork players were destined for senior stardom and backboned the county’s senior successes of the last ten years.

2000 All-Ireland MHC final: Galway 2-19 Cork 4-10 & 2001 All-Ireland MHC final: Cork 2-10 Galway 1-8
THESE finals were unquestionably portents for the future. From the Galway line-up Shane Kavanagh, Adrian Cullinane, Fergal Moore, Andy Smith, Niall Healy, Damien Hayes all progressed to be involved in the recent senior firecracker against Kilkenny. From the Cork starting fifteen John Gardiner, Kieran Murphy, both the Erins Own and Sarsfields models, Brian Murphy and Graham Callanan all pushed onto the senior grade. And the Cork player's subsequent thriving was not restricted to the Gaelic world, with Tomás O'Leary going on to kicking an oval ball with Munster and Setanta kicking an oval ball with Carlton. The 2000 finalwas superb fare, Kieran Murphy (Sars) lashing in 2-4 for Cork but being usurped by a Galway side that featured Ger Farragher weighing in with 0-8. Still there was plenty consolation for Cork, with four of the side winning the All-Ireland minor football crown two weeks later and exacting hurling revenge in the 2001  decider. Fergus Murphy grabbed a crucial goal for Cork while Gardiner drove his team-mates on, chipping in with two points in a superb centre-back display that sealed a narrow win.

2004 All-Ireland MHC final (replay): Galway 0-16 Kilkenny 1-12
THE drawn match six days previously had finished Galway 3-12 Kilkenny 1-18, with a 16 year-old Richie Hogan striking an injury-time point to ensure a draw for Kilkenny. But the second instalment was a classic on a Saturday afternoon in Tullamore. Throw-in was delayed fifteen minutes to accommodate a packed crowd at the Offaly venue, and when the match began it proceeded to ebb and flow for sixty minutes as the sides stayed close to each other. The defensive majesty of John Lee and the attacking instincts of Kerril Wade proved pivotal in ultimately guiding Galway to a 0-16 to 1-12 success. But the defining memory is that it was the game that introduced a 16 year-old to the broader hurling public. Joesph Canning from Portumna announced his arrival on the national stage with a strong display that yielded four points, the centrepiece of which was two sublime sideline cuts.

*compiled by Michael Moynihan/Fintan O’Toole