College team-mates: Limerick's Cian Lynch and Galway's Thomas Monaghan
GALWAY will be able to call upon four members of Micheal Donoghue’s Galway senior hurling panel for Saturday’s All Ireland U-21 semi final.
While most attention in Galway is on the September 3 All Ireland SHC final, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Saturday provides a chance for the Tribesmen to reach finals at senior, minor and U-21 hurling level.
Thomas Monaghan is one of the quartet involved in the senior and U-21 panels, along with Conor Whelan, Sean Loftus and Jack Grealish.
Craughwell clubman, Monaghan is no stranger to Limerick.
A Mary Immaculate College student, the forward has won Fitzgibbon Cup medals with the Limerick side in the last two seasons – last February he was introduced as a half time sub in the final win over IT Carlow.
Monaghan’s MIC team-mates included Limerick U-21 hurlers Aaron Gillane, Thomas Grimes and Cian Lynch.
”I know the lads well so I know how good a team Limerick have,” Monaghan told LeaderSport this Tuesday from a media event organised by sponsors Bord Gais Energy.
”I know that three years ago this Limerick group were very unlucky not to win the All Ireland minor,” recalled Monaghan.
While Limerick failed in that minor attempt, Monaghan and many of this Galway U-21 side do have winning minor medals, from 2015.
On top of that All Ireland MHC and the two Fitzgibbon Cups, Monaghan also holds an Allianz Hurling League and Leinster SHC medals from this season and played in an All Ireland U-21 final last September, when losing to Waterford.
This Summer he made his first senior championship appearance, so the Limerick based student is rising the crest of a wave.
”Francis Forde is coaching the seniors and U-21s so that helps to manage our schedule. It’s a good complaint to be involved with teams at this stage,” he explains.
What of Galway’s senior progress.
”Things are building alight,” he says of the pre-All Ireland atmosphere.
”We will just focus on the match, the excitement and hype is for the spectators and families. Our job is to focus on the hurling,” he stressed.
Indeed Saturday’s U-21 semi final offers a timely distraction.
”It’s a distraction but it is always nice to come back and play with the lads that you have been involved with all along,” said Monaghan, who is U-21 again next year.
While Limerick have beaten Tipperary, Clare and Cork, Galway make their championship debut on Saturday.
“It’s our first competitive game and it can work both ways – we can come in under the radar but also you always like to play competitive games,” explains Monaghan.
”We have played a few challenge games and had in-house games to get up to speed. I always think that in-house games are great because everyone involved in looking to get up to the same speed.”
But Monaghan is well aware of the value of competitive games.
”Everyone want to be playing games. When you look at our minor win, we beat Limerick, Kilkenny in the semi final and then Tipperary in the final.”
With all three Limerick U-21 games live on TG4, Monaghan and his Galway colleagues have noted a familiar trend.
”They are very good starters – nearly always hitting a goal early in the game and against Cork it was a number of points. That is something that we have to try and stop.”
He adds: “Really though, we have to focus on ourselves,” said Monaghan.