Limerick and Wexford battle for All Ireland U-21 hurling title

Jerome O’Connell


Jerome O’Connell

Wexford captain Eoin Conroy, right, and Limerick captain Diarmaid Byrnes pictured ahead of the All Ireland U-21 hurling final
IT’S 13 years since All Ireland hurling glory last came to Limerick.

IT’S 13 years since All Ireland hurling glory last came to Limerick.

On that occasion it was also the U-21 hurling crown that came Shannonside as Dave Keane’s side completed their remarkable hat-trick of titles.

Unfortunately the wait for senior, intermediate or minor honours stretches a little further into the history books.

This Saturday, Limerick bid for a fifth All Ireland U-21 hurling title - all four previous final appearances have been winning ones.

This weekend will be a repeat of the 2001 final - also in Thurles.

Just like the success at the early part of this millennium, Limerick’s journey to this All Ireland final has been thrilling.

John Kiely, John Flavin, Jimmy Quilty and Ross Corbett have their Limerick outfit in top shape. Physically they have seen out each of their three wins in impressive style, playing a real fast brand of controlled, intelligent hurling.

Game by game Limerick have improved and will need to do so again to topple The Model County.

But with wins over Tipperary, Clare and Galway, there is no reason for Limerick to fear their opponents.

And, they have certainly shown to-date that concentrating on their own game and not overly focusing on the opposition is working wonders.

Throughout the team there is a winning mentality.

Just to add an edge their is also some painful defeats that appear to fuel their desire for honours.

Provincial minor, U-21 and club success, Post Primary and Third Level titles, individual honours and collective acclaim have all adorned this group of players over the last two to three years.

The 40-man Limerick panel represents the best of four different age groups. Each have progressed through the Underage Academy.

The winning run of their U-21 side and the manner of the run are testament to the work of the underage training and to the minor management tutorage of Brian Ryan, Jerry Wallace, Shane Fitzgibbon and Ger Cunningham.

To their credit this Limerick U-21 management threw the door open to all in their efforts to put the best formula on the field. Even after beating Tipperary and Clare to win the Munster title, they extended their options with newcomers to the panel and two of them saw action in the All Ireland semi final.

Eleven of the team come from the back-to-back Munster minor winning sides but the likes of David McCarthy and Gearoid Hegarty are both playing inter-county hurling for the first time.

They are two of the older players on the team, along with captain Diarmaid Byrnes and Barry O’Connell.

McCarthy lines out in goals, while the other three complete what has been a dominant half back line to far.

Once again this trio will have to be on top form to set the tone.

In front of McCarthy is a full back line of Sean Finn, Richie English and Michael Casey. At the edge of the square, English has seen off Shane O’Donnell, Conor Whelan and Colin O’Riordan but on Saturday will face Conor McDonald.

Midfield is the Doon duo of Darragh O’Donovan and Pat Ryan and they are the vital cogs to link defence and attack and have chipped in with some fine points.

Both can carry ball from defence but more importantly is their direct and clever ball into the mobile attack.

In three games so far, Cian Lynch has been retreated out to join the Doon duo in midfield, leaving a five man attack - usually with two in the full forward line.

Colin Ryan will most likely be one of the inside duo with Ronan Lynch or Tom Morrissey alongside him.

That is of course unless John Kiely and Co mix it up for the final.

There is scores in the attack but they very much like all to be done at a high tempo.

Wexford a big physically and ensuring Limerick set the pace will be a vital part of the plan. They have done so in three games and all suggests that can repeat once again to lift All Ireland honours.LIMERICK: David McCarthy (Glenroe), Sean Finn (Bruff), Richie English (Doon), Michael Casey (Na Piarsaigh); Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell), Barry O Connell (Kildimo-Pallaskenry), Gearoid Hegarty (St Patricks); Darragh O’Donovan (Doon), Pat Ryan (Doon); Ronan Lynch (Na Piarsaigh), Cian Lynch (Patrickswell), David Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh); Colin Ryan (Pallasgreen), Tom Morrissey (Ahane), Barry Nash (South Liberties). Subs: Eoghan McNamara (Doon), Mark O’Callaghan (Knockaderry), Andrew La Touche Cosgrave (Monaleen), Jack Kelleher (Patrickswell), Sean Flanagan (Feohanagh-Castlemahon), Jody Hannon (Adare), Liam O’Sullivan (Knockaderry), Seamus Flanagan (Feohanagh-Castlemahon), Peter Casey (Na Piarsaigh). Extended panel: Lukas O’Brien (Adare), Paddy Morrissey (Ahane), James O’Riordan (Bruff), Brian Finn (Bruff), David Lynch (Croagh-Kilfinny), Jack Quaid (Effin), Jamie Butler (Feohanagh-Castlemahon), David Condron (Granagh-Ballingarry), Robbie Hanley (Kilmallock), Lorcan Lyons (Monaleen), Darragh Kennedy (Murroe-Boher), Kevin O’Brien (Patrickswell), Evan Fitzgerald (Parteen), Cian Hedderman (Ballybrown), Dean Coleman (Doon), Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell).