One of the great underage rivalries in Limerick hurling will get another airing in Croagh on Saturday as Na Piarsaigh and Kilmallock meet in the Limerick U-21HC final for the second year running.
There are numerous sub plots that make this another fascinating contest. Na Piarsaigh are the reigning U-21 champions having denied Kilmallock a five-in-a-row last year and the club are on a high never experienced before following last week’s historic first senior title.
The Caherdavin club are seeking an unprecedented clean sweep of Limerick titles as they’ve already claimed the U-16 and senior titles and are in the latter stages of U-14, minor and junior.
However, Kilmallock will be dangerous opposition this weekend. This has been their main target since being surprisingly dumped out of the senior championship by Patrickswell and in Graeme Mulcahy, they have one of the county’s most in-form forwards over the past 12 months.
Mulcahy’s younger brother Jake is also a fine prospect while the likes of Kevin O’Donnell and Conor Moloney both have senior club experience too.
And, having won the last two minor titles, Kilmallock have no shortage of talented young players to back up their more experienced colleagues.
How much the exertions of last Sunday and the subsequent celebrations have taken out of Na Piarsaigh remain to be seen but they do have a serious team and they showcased that when beating Patrickswell 6-18 to 3-12 in their semi-final.
Kilmallock were made to work harder for their 1-12 to 1-8 win over Ballybrown in their semi-final last weekend but like Na Piarsaigh, they’re unbeaten through this competition having topped their group with three straight wins. That semi-final was ideal preparation for them though and they’d like nothing more than to wrestle back the title they lost last year.
Kevin Downes, Alan Dempsey and Shane Dowling are accumulating championships at an astonishing rate and win this and Na Piarsaigh will have taken another step closer to that incredible ‘Grand Slam’ of Limerick hurling titles.
It may be too much of an ask to reach that optimum level again for Na Piarsaigh but if their big names perform, then it’s hard to see past them.
Last year there was only two points between the sides and it’s likely to be tight again on Saturday.
The city club have momentum though and it should be enough to carry them over the line once more.