U-21s in search of Munster glory

THE Limerick U-21 hurlers are keeping fingers crossed that injured duo Graeme Mulcahy and James O’Brien will be available for Wednesday night’s Munster championship final.

THE Limerick U-21 hurlers are keeping fingers crossed that injured duo Graeme Mulcahy and James O’Brien will be available for Wednesday night’s Munster championship final.

After the elimination of the county senior footballers on Sunday, Leo O’Connor’s U-21s are the last inter-county side standing ahead of their Gaelic Grounds decider against Cork.

Na Piarsaigh’s O’Brien and Kilmallock’s Mulcahy missed last week’s semi-final win over Clare due to injury, but is is hoping that both will be available for selection.

O’Brien was named at centre back against Clare but failed to prove his fitness after sustaining a burn to his foot, while Mulcahy picked up a shoulder injury 48 hours before the clash in Ennis when lining out for DonalO’Grady’s senior side in the All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Dublin.

Mulcahy could return to the side to complete a lively full forward line with captain Kevin Downes and Michael Ryan.

Cork will have senior football All-Star Aidan Walsh available after Conor Counihan’s side were shocked by Mayo in Croke Park on Sunday. Walsh will most likely play at wing forward in an attack that will also include Jamie Coghlan, a former student of Hazelwood College in Dromcollogher.

Cork beat All Ireland champions Tipperary in the Munster semi-final last month.

When Cork last came to the Gaelic Grounds for a Munster U-21 hurling final they were dispatched in one of the most emphatic displays by any Limerick hurling side in a 4-18 to 1-6 victory.

That 2000 win came after the sides drew 1-13 each in Pairc Ui Chaoimh and set in motion a remarkable three years at the grade.

Theprovincial finalists have already met in achallenge game.

“We played them in a challenge game and they won 1-25 to 1-17. We were short a few players and so were Cork - that will bare no bearing on what will happen on Wednesday,” explained Leo O’Connor, who holds an U-21 medal from 1987.

“At end of the day the first 10 minutes will be all helter skelter and then it will settle down and that the most important thing that we keep our heads,” he said.

O’Connor’s extended panel played South Liberties in a challenge game over the Bank Holiday weekend and reports no fresh injuries.

“A Munster final in Limerick is what this lads were driving for,” said O’Connor, who is joined in the management team by John Kiely, Pat Davern and Pat Donnelly.

Limerick will look to senior trio Declan Hannon, Kevin Downes and Graeme Mulcahy.

That trio could start in attack along with minor star, Shane Dowling, Michael Ryan and Niall Kennedy, with Conor Allis and Sean O’Brien in midfield.

“Who was to say that we would go down to Ennis and score 2-19 and Declan Hannon only get a point and Graeme Mulcahy didn’t start,” said O’Connor of the Clare win in the semi-final.

But the bookies do not see Limerick repeating the win and have installed Cork as favourites after their semi-final win over Tipperary.

“We play a simple brand of hurling and it worked for us,” said the manager of their direct approach.

The All-Ireland semi-finals are fixed for Saturday, August 20, with Leinster champions Dublin facing Antrim and the Munster winners playing Galway.

Regardless of the opposition, the final will take place in Thurles on September 10.