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Kerry minors have eyes on sixth All-Ireland final in-a-row ahead of Galway semi-final showdown

The Kerry players celebrate after last month's Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship quarter-final win over Tyrone in Tullamore. Picture by Philip Walsh 
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Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship semi-final

FOR the past five years it is Kerry who have delivered that vital surge of electricity on those glorious minor days beneath the Croke Park sun, and their quest for a sixth consecutive Electric Ireland All-Ireland title continues against Galway in Sunday’s semi-final.

Former minor stars like David Clifford and Sean O’Shea have easily made the Major transition to the senior ranks, and the class of 2019 is aiming to follow suit by bringing pride – and the Tom Markham Cup – back to the Kingdom once more.

They passed a stern examination from Tyrone in Tullamore two weeks ago and have twice overcome Galway in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship during recent times, landing wins en route to ultimate glory in 2016 and 2018.

James Costello is the man charged with following in the footsteps of current senior boss Peter Keane, and he is well aware of the challenge posed by Sunday’s opponents as they set out to create yet more magic minor memories.

“I’ve said before that the success of the other minor teams is not a burden on these players but an inspiration,” said the St Pat’s, Blennerville man.

“They dream of playing in an All-Ireland final and it’s up to us as a management to guide them towards that dream, but you must prepare them for the different steps along the way such as playing in Croke Park on a big day.

“That carrot of an All-Ireland final was something we kept in the background at the start but now it’s in full view of the players.”

It would certainly be a huge achievement to reach a sixth Electric Ireland All-Ireland final on the trot, and all eyes will be on a minor star with Major ambition - captain Jack O’Connor.

The Beaufort ace scored the final point in last year’s All-Ireland final win over Galway, and Costello has been impressed with how O’Connor ace has stepped up to the mark again this year.

“He has stood up when we needed him.

“He was the player doing the talking in the dressing room at half-time against Tyrone but the key thing about how he spoke was that he didn’t overdo it in what he said.

“He is very level-headed and a great player to settle things down which is something the other players will also listen to and take respect for him from.”

Read more: Mark Counihan is the voice of experience for Monaghan

Galway come into Sunday’s game on the back on an extended run through the Electric Ireland All-Ireland qualifiers, and Costello is wary of the momentum they will have built through the back door ahead of this weekend’s clash.

He said: “Galway have had 10 games in their campaign thus far whereas we are only entering our fifth.

“That has given them far more room for development, but I would be confident that there is an extra 20-30 per cent in our players and that they can go up the gears with the open spaces in Croke Park probably suiting us more.

“Pulling through some dark corners in our campaign is something that you hope will stand to us though. However, you can never say if the occasion will get to them or not in any way until you see them out on the pitch.”

And Costello insists lessons will be learned from their sluggish start against the Red Hands last time out when the Kingdom found themselves battling back from behind to keep their All-Ireland dream alive.

“You can plan and prepare for a team’s game-plan and what you think might come on the day, but any team will always be more comfortable with their own game-plan than you will be in trying to work something around that,” said the Kerry minor boss.

“We forced so many balls into their sweepers in the first-half it took at least 10 or 15 minutes for us to be able to get across fully to the lads what we were trying to do and change course.

“Tyrone definitely tackled a lot harder than anything we experienced so far but it’s not a case of overly correcting things because you could be playing against a totally different set-up the next day.”

ELECTRIC IRELAND ALL-IRELAND SEMI-FINAL MAGIC NUMBERS

MAYO

7: MAYO are the last county, outside of Kerry, to get their hands on the Tom Markham Cup. That was in 2013 when Enda Gilvarry’s young side defeated Tyrone 2-13 to 0-13 in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland final. From that group, the likes of Stephen Coen, Michael Plunkett, Conor Loftus and Diarmuid O’Connor have all progressed to the senior team and, with some aging legs on James Horan’s squad, they could do with a fresh injection of youth. Tomorrow afternoon the latest crop of Mayo minors go toe-to-toe with Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final.

CORK

10: CORK have 10 All-Ireland minor titles to their name and, if they were to come up trumps in 2019, would move joint second with Dublin’s haul of 11 – though both still have plenty of work to do to catch Kerry who are currently on 16. The Rebels impressed last time out when first half goals from Conor Corbett and Michael O’Neill saw them battle past a brave Monaghan outfit and into an Electric Ireland All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo tomorrow.

KERRY

6: THE five in-a-row was wrapped up with an impressive win over Galway last September, and a sixth All-Ireland title number in-a-row is the big ambition for the latest group of emerging talent in the Kingdom. Peter Keane, who was at the helm for the previous three Tom Markham Cup successes, took over from Eamonn Fitzmaurice when the Finuge man walked away from the senior job last year and it is up to current incumbent James Costello to continue that rich vein of success.

GALWAY

7: GALWAY were charged with halting Kerry’s drive for five Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship titles last year, and at one stage led Peter Keane’s all-conquering Kingdom side by seven points. Tony Gill’s 24th minute goal helped Donal O Flaharta’s Tribe outfit into a 1-9 to 0-8 lead at the break, but it was Kerry who pressed the issue in the second half as they drove for home.

Read more: Mark Counihan is the voice of experience for Monaghan

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