Galway and Kilkenny face off this weekend in their final group stage game of the Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Hurling Championship. Both sides have won their two opening games against Laois and Antrim. Friday evening's match at Nowlan Park will be a shootout to see which team tops the group and progresses straight to the semi-final stage.
This season is Galway's maiden campaign in the Leinster minor championship. A vote at GAA congress in February allowed the Tribemen minors to join the county's U20 and senior teams in Leinster.
"Kilkenny and Galway played each other in an U16 development squad match there last August and the score was something crazy in favour of Galway," Kilkenny manager Niall Bergin told KCLR FM.
"We'll find out very, very quickly where we're at now. We feel we've made good strides. The lads have put a huge effort in and they're a super bunch of young fellas. They have a brilliant attitude and want to learn every day they go out."
At the GAA's Centre of Excellence in Abbottstown on Saturday, Kilkenny defeated Antrim 2-21 to 1-8.
A good win for our Minors in Abbottstown this afternoon. Congrats to @oloughlingaels Greg Kelly, @clubber TV’s Man of the Match. Round 3 vs Galway next Friday, 7th April, at 5pm in UPMC Nowlan Park. pic.twitter.com/ozxJMl02Ye
— Kilkenny GAA (@KilkennyCLG) April 1, 2023
"We knew they were going to come with a sweeper," Bergin explained after the game.
"We knew it was going to take a little bit of getting used to. Eventually, we got to grips with it. The first 15 minutes, Antrim did very well, they got a great goal. It was a disappointing from our side but a good goal from Antrim's perspective.
"Once we settled down, I don't think Antrim scored after that goal in the first half. We settled down, and started tagging on the scores.
"We were giving them an outlet for the puckouts, and we said we'd push up and see what happens in terms of would they go long and how would we deal with the long ball. We dealt very well with the long ball. The half-back line was strong under the ball and we got onto the breaks. We started to win back momentum in many ways.
"In the second half, hurling into the wind suited us a little bit more. The ball was holding up a little bit, going into the full-forward line and the lads were making hay inside."
Bergin said this is a Kilkenny side "trying to play to our strengths".
"We've got great pace. When lads carry the ball, things happen. They're opening gaps in the opposition team. To best honest, they were times when we could have scored more, a few goals from those overlaps that were created.
"We started out, had trials and went to schools matches. It gave us a great opportunity. It's very different this year compared to last year. This time last year, the Leinster colleges junior final was still on between CBS and Kierans.
This year, it was over in November. We're after having a clean run at it which was been brilliant.
"Parents have been absolutely top class. We're been training in the four corners of the county. It's a tall order asking parents to drive their sons here there and everywhere. If you're living in the far south of the county, and we're training in Ballyragget [it's a long journey]."