Brendan Grant: All-Ireland Minor final an incredible experience, a buzz you will never forget and a feeling you will remember to the day you die
THERE can only be one winner, barring a replay, when Galway and Cork meet in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football final this Sunday, but both sides will take home memories for life according to one player who has been lucky enough to experience it.
Those memories will be more cherished for the victors, of course, but just being a young lad involved on such a major occasion will be life-changing, according to Down’s 1999 All-Ireland winning full-back Brendan Grant.
It’s 20 years now since Gerry Dougherty’s team recorded a 1-14 to 0-14 win over a Mayo side that contained the likes of Alan Dillon and Billy Joe Padden, who would go on to face some of those Mourne players at senior level in the colours of Armagh.
Grant can remember so clearly the days and weeks leading up to the Minor final, and he has given an insight into what the Rebel and Tribe players can expect at Croke Park this weekend.
“The semi-final (v Dublin) was my first time playing at Croke Park,” said the Mayobridge native and current Glenn coach.
“I was lucky enough to grow up in a good Mayobridge underage team and we were successful from U10s right up to minor.
“That group of players obviously formed the nucleus of the Mayorbridge senior team.
“We never really got nervous then about going to the semi-final and final because we had been relatively successful.
“When you’re young at 17 or 18, I don’t think you get nervous, it’s more excitement.
“I’m sure it will be the same for the two teams this weekend and they’ll be feeling that excitement now, and my advice would be to enjoy the occasion.”
Both Cork and Galway have embarked on special journeys that will live long in the memory.
The Rebels stumbled a few times against Kerry in Munster but they have blown Monaghan and Mayo away in the All-Ireland series.
Galway too have already written their own unique tale by dumping out Kerry in the semi-final, ending the Kingdom’s 34-game winning streak in the process and halting their recent dominance over the Electric Ireland Minor Football Championship.
Grant remembers their own bumpy journey that eventually ended with Liam Doyle raising the Tom Markham Cup on September 26, 1999.
“We needed a couple of games to go our way along the way,” he said.
“We drew the Ulster final against Donegal and we drew the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.
“Those two games really brought the squad together, formed that bond, because we struggled to get over Antrim in the first round (2-14 to 3-4) when we conceded three goals in Newry.
“The team got better as the year went on and that’s often the case for teams getting to the final.
“Sunday will be an incredible experience for these young lads.
“It’s a buzz you will never forget and a feeling you will remember to the day you die.
“It’s always a very proud moment to represent your county regardless of age or level but when you get to run out at Headquarters, it’s a real achievement.
“Luckily enough we were successful and that All-Ireland medal certainly added to those memories, but I really hope the two teams can enjoy it win or lose.”
Throw in for the Electric Ireland Minor Football Championship Final is in Croke Park at 1pm on Sunday September 1 and Electric Ireland will be bringing ‘The Championship Haircut’ activation to the Cusack Stand to celebrate this pre-game ritual from 11.30am to 1pm ahead of another major final.
MAJOR NUMBERS FROM THE MINOR FINAL CAMPS
Both Cork and Galway have lost two games in this year’s Electric Ireland Minor Football Championship. Kerry had 16 points to spare over the Rebels in the Munster group stages and three points in their provincial final meeting while Galway lost to Roscommon in their opening Connacht game. They responded to reach the provincial final where they went down by a point to Mayo.
Galway’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Kerry was significant as it ended the Kingdom’s 34-game winning run at this level, stretching all the way back to their 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Tyrone. Darragh Kennedy was the hero as his 61st minute point secured a 0-14 to 0-13 win at Croke Park.
This will be the fourth All-Ireland Minor final meeting between Cork and Galway with the Connacht side winning all three previous meetings. They have been relatively one-sided affairs too, with the 1986 final the closest of the lot as Galway won 3-8 to 2-7 with Kevin Walsh starring in midfield.
Cork have been able to find goals throughout their run to the final, managing 13 in just five games. Eight different players have raised green flags with Conor Corbett leading the way with three. Patrick Campbell, with two, is the only other player to score more than one and he also forced the Kerry own goal in the Munster final.
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