In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely says that the Limerick minor hurlers can improve after their win in Cork - the county’s first in 29 years.
It might well have taken 29 years but it was worth waiting for, the small band of Limerick supporters who made their way onto the field after the game relished the victory over Cork. This was the opening round of the Minor Championship and as we know Cork are hard to beat in the “Pairc”.
Over the years so many fine Limerick teams made the journey but left with their hopes dashed. It was 1983 that Limerick last beat Cork at home and while some of the hurling was poor it mattered little because the result is what mattered most to Limerick.
Huge work has gone into this minor team over the past few months, Shane Fitzgibbon and his management team have got this group to work very hard in training and they needed all of that work ethic to grind out a result against a Cork team who had fought back well when the game looked lost.
To play minor for your county can be a daunting task for a young lad and some are able to cope better than others but this win over Cork should give confidence to Limerick. Some of the lads let the occasion get to them but now that they know what’s ahead of them I would expect them to have learned some vital lessons.
I got the sense that Limerick gave Cork too much respect - as such they never really opened their shoulders. Cork started well and led 0-3 to 0-1 after 11 minutes and it could well have been more. At times the game was scrappy and both sides made plenty of mistakes but Limerick, through the efforts of Ronan Lynch from play and frees, had matters level by the first quarter at four points each. Brian Griffin added a point while Kevin O’Brien chipped in with another and Limerick went two ahead.
As the half wore on Cork rallied, Pa O’Callaghan landed three points in a row and that saw the sides level at 0-8 each at half time. Just like the first half Limerick did very well in the opening fifteen minutes of the second half and they should have wrapped up this contest long before the finish.
Points from Cian Lynch, Ronan Lynch and a cracker from Brian Finn were the ideal start for Limerick and with every score you could see the team growing in confidence. Cian Lynch is a name we will hear more about but I would like to see him use his two hands for the jab lift and he would find his return would be much better. Ronan Lynch, who is not yet sixteen, is a young man blessed with great hands, he hit some fine scores but his line ball from forty three metres gave us an insight into the many skills he has.
Limerick at one stage led 0-14 to 0-9 and were very much on top. They should never have allowed Cork come back into the game and they were clinging on nearing the end. When this game was in the fire a few Limerick players really stood out. Shane Irwin, in his second year at this level, was outstanding and really showed the way. Likewise, James Carrig and the sturdy Barry O’Connell at centre back. Diarmuid Byrnes who never played in any development team on the way up must have been very proud to wear the Limerick jersey. Byrnes is a player possibly better suited to a central position but keep an eye out for this lad, he has good hands and we have yet to see the best of him.
Limerick found scores hard to come by in the last quarter and when Cork levelled with a goal they looked in real trouble. With the game now in injury time the sides swapped points and it looked destined for a draw. Liam O’Sullivan from Knockaderry had come on as a sub and was doing well.
O’Sullivan has worked so hard over the past couple of years and when Barry O’Connell hit him the perfect delivery, very few would have given him much chance of stealing inside his marker who had done well to shield him to the line.
O’Sullivan flicked his hips and in a moment of magic he flashed the winning score over the bar. For the management and players this was such a great win, Fitzgibbon, Ger Cunningham and Mike Galligan had pushed them to the limit and now the team will know why.
For the second year running many of the Limerick players were cramping and this is not a good sign. It’s not too often you see this happen on the scale that it happened to Limerick. It could have resulted in them losing the game and this area needs to be got right for their next outing in late June. Victory over Cork is only a step on the road - let’s hope they can now build upon it.
Trip to Tipp getting ever closer but price should be right
Limerick will travel to Thurles on May 27 to play Tipperary in the opening round of the championship and this game will be part of a double header. Kerry and Tipperary will meet in the football and it will be very interesting to see what type of crowd will attend these games. The entry charge of €30 will not inspire too many to make the journey and this will be a real test for the Munster Council. The game is live on TV and those who are lukewarm about their team’s chances could very well vote with their feet.
We saw what Kilkenny did last Sunday and past games in the League counted for nothing and it proves what I thought - that Tipperary had little interest in reaching a League Final. Over the past couple of weeks I have heard many stories coming from the Premier County but, make no bones about it, they will be well up for the Limerick game.