Limerick minors target return to Croke Park

Jerome O’Connell


Jerome O’Connell

Limerick coach Anthony Daly
A return to Croke Park for a third successive season is the carrot for the Limerick minor hurlers as they return to Thurles this Sunday (12noon), two weeks after defeat in the Munster final.

A return to Croke Park for a third successive season is the carrot for the Limerick minor hurlers as they return to Thurles this Sunday (12noon), two weeks after defeat in the Munster final.

Standing between Limerick and an August 9 All Ireland MHC semi final against champions Kilkenny are Galway.

In the other side of the draw are Antrim, Dublin and Tipperary.

Champions Kilkenny are the 13/8 favourites to retain their title with Munster winners Tipperary at 15/8.

Dublin (7/2) and Galway (13/2) are both short prices than Limerick (9/1) to lift the Irish Press Cup.

Sunday will be the third year in a row that Limerick and Galway meet in this championship.

Two years ago Galway had a controversial Hawk-Eye success, while 12 months ago Limerick were 1-27 to 2-9 winners.

“It’s Galway’s first game in the championship so you just don’t know what to expect. They can be the jack in the box surprise team of the championship or they can disappoint like they did last year, said Limerick manager Leo O’Connor.

But the Limerick manager suspects that The Tribesmen will provide a stern test on Sunday.

“We played them twice in challenge games and there wasn’t a puck of the ball between us. They have a lot of lads from the Athenry side that just lost to winners St Kierans in the All Ireland colleges semi final,” said the 2011 Munster U-21 hurling winning manager.

“Galway have probably been one of the most consistent teams for the last number of years and overall there is very little between any of the teams in this year’s championship.”

Seven of the Limerick teenagers who played last year against Galway will again be involved again for the Shannonsiders - Eoghan McNamara, Seamus Flanagan, Paddy O’Loughlin, Conor Byrnes, Peter Casey, Thomas Grimes and Barry Murphy. McNamara and Flanagan will be facing Galway for a third year.

After successive Munster titles, Sunday will be Limerick’s first day back in the All Ireland MHC quarter final since 2005 when they beat Antrim and then Dublin in the semi final, before ultimately losing to Galway in the final.

“The carrot now is to get back to Croke Park and play Kilkenny in the semi final on August 9,” said O’Connor.

Thirty one years after he was part of Limerick’s last All Ireland winning side, O’Connor is confident that his teenage stars can return to winning ways.

“It’s a new competition and that’s the way we are looking at it. The Munster championship is over and we are in an All Ireland quarter final,” outlined the Claughaun man.

“We trained last Tuesday, they were back to their clubs on Thursday and then on Saturday we played an internal game. We just need to freshen things up and hope to get a display on Sunday and if we do we will be there or there abouts,” reported O’Connor.

Sunday will be Limerick’s fifth game of the championship - Tipperary, Waterford and Cork (twice).

Limerick, managed by Leo O’Connor and coached by Anthony Daly, along with selectors Brian Foley, John Mulqueen and Pat Donnelly, are operating with an extended panel of 34 players at present.

A total of 25 players have seen game time during the Munster championship with 19 earning starting roles.

A total of 12 of the players were part of Brian Ryan’s panel that contested the All Ireland final last September in Croke Park.

The current squad is drawn from 17 different clubs with eight senior clubs and three junior clubs included.

It is a squad that is captained by Eoghan McNamara with Peter Casey the vice-captain.

All involved will know that only Limerick’s best will do on Sunday and change are expected when the team is confirmed later in the week.

A look through the results in Munster shows that Limerick have scored just two goals in four games with a total of 2-62 scored and 3-64 conceded.

There is scoring potential in the squad but all have very much relied on Peter Casey in recent games against Cork and Tipperary.

The team have shown great work rate but need to maximise possession to get over the winning line.