THE Limerick minor hurlers set out on their defence of the Munster championship this Thursday (7.00) in the Gaelic Grounds.
Equipped with 10 players from last Summer’s All-Ireland semi-final loss to Galway, Limerick are the fancy of many to win first ever successive Munster MHC titles for the county.
The first obstacle for Limerick are Tipperary, who were defeated 1-17 to 0-17 at this stage last season.
Both counties named their line-up this Tuesday,
The Limerick team has seven of the side that started the All Ireland semi final against Galway last Summer.
Cian Lynch captains the team. The seven who started against Galway are Sean Finn, Andrew La Touche Cosgrave, Ronan Lynch, Barry Nash, Cian Lynch, Tom Morrissey and Colin Ryan. Jamie Porter, Seamus Flanagan and Ed Doyle also played in Croke Park.
Former player Liam Cahill is the Tipperary manager. Darragh Peters, Willie Connors and captain Brian Hogan are the only survivors from the team which lost to Limerick last year.
Limerick are the bookies favourites but manager Brian Ryan is happy his side won’t be affected by the pressure.
“There is no room for complacency - from a player or a management point of view we are always striving to improve,” said Ryan this Wednesday.
“Our preparations have gone reasonably well - we had three Limerick colleges progress which was great but it did hinder us a little,” said the manager, who added that it’s only since the end of March that they have had a full panel to train with.
Limerick’s team on Thursday will have just two players (Eoghan McNamara and Seamus Flanagan) underage in 2015.
“Our policy has been to ensure players get experience and we have done that again with players throughout our extended panel of 35. We have 17 players from last year’s 34 still involved. It is great experience for fellas to come in young and to even be around training and get the core development work,” explained Ryan.
Indeed captain Cian Lynch, vice-captain Ronan Lynch and wing back Andrew La Touche Cosgrave are set to play in their third successive minor championship.
“We are very much conscious that it is about ensuring players can make a smooth transition up to senior level. We run a very professional set-up and are constantly looking to update our panel to ensure we have the best available.”
While their is a core of players remaining from last season there has been a change to the back room team is former inter-county star defender Steve McDonogh now a selector.
He replaces Paul Finn as a selector alongside Eamonn Cregan and Jerry Wallace, who also trains the panel along with Aonghus O’Brien.
This Limerick panel of players tasted success at U-16 and U-15 level - beating Tipperary at both age groups.
The bookies make Limerick 8/15 favourites on Thursday but Ryan insists his side are taking nothing for granted.
“We have done our homework and know that they have quite a few changes from the U-16s two years ago,” he explained.
“We know they have done a lot of work and played a lot of games and of course they will come here seeking some revenge for last year,” said the South Liberties man, who used challenge games against Clare, Dublin, Wexford, Offaly and the Westmeath U-21s to finalise the team’s preparations.
Victory on Thursday would propel Brian Ryan’s side in a Munster semi-final against either Cork on June 25/26.
Defeat would mean that Limerick advance through the back door where they would get a bye into round two against Clare or Kerry on April 30 or May 7 encounter.
LIMERICK: Eoghan McNamara (Doon); Sean Finn (Bruff), Darragh Fanning (Pallasgreen), Jamie Porter (Monaleen); Andrew La Touche Cosgrave (Monaleen), Ronan Lynch (Na Piarsaigh), Lorcan Lyons (Monaleen), Robbie Hanley (Kilmallock), Cian O’Brien (Mungret), Seamus Flanagan (Feoghanagh-Castlemahon), Barry Nash (South Liberties), Cian Lynch (Patrickswell, Tom Morrissey (Ahane), Ed Doyle (Monaleen), Colin Ryan (Pallasgreen). Subs: Cian Hedderman (Ballybrown), Paddy O Loughlin (Kilmallock), Shane O’Connell (Doon), Thomas Grimes (Na Piarsagh), Dylan Dawson (Blackrock), Cian O’Brien (Monaleen), Eoghan Costelloe (Adare), Conor Moroney (Tournafulla), Conor Fitzgerald (Claughaun).
TIPPERARY: Brian Hogan (Lorrha and Dorrha); Chris McCullagh (Moycarkey-Borris), Jack Skehan (Holycross-Ballycahill), Darragh Peters (Kilruane MacDonaghs); Billy McCarthy (Thurles Sarsfields), Paul Maher (Kilsheelan Kilcash), Conor Ryan (Nenagh Eire Og); Andrew Coffey (Nenagh Éire Óg), Willie Connors (Kildangan); Alan Tynan (Roscrea), Willie Coffey (Toomevara), Shane Hennessy (Nenagh Eire Og); Tommy Nolan (Drom and Inch), Stephen Quirke (Moyle Rovers), Paul Ryan (Toomevara). Subs: Gavin Ryan (Upperchurch Drombane), Cian Darcy (Kilruane MacDonaghs), Liam Fahey (Rockwell Rovers), Conor Floyd (Newport), Bill O’Connell (Loughmore-Castleiney), Gavin O’Halloran (Carrick Swan), Ross Peters (St. Mary’s Clonmel), Pa Ryan (Newport), Ronan Teehan (Gortnahoe-Glengoole), Robert Holohan (Newport), Enda Heffernan (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Michael Dunne (Mullinahone), Robbie Long (Drom & Inch), Brian McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Shane Neville (Lattin-Cullen), Kevin Ahearne (Drom & Inch), Liam McCutcheon (Templederry Kenyons).