In this week’s Limerick Leader GAA column, Martin Kiely looks back at Limerick’s All Ireland U-21 hurling semi final win over Galway.
The traditional values of Limerick hurling were alive and well in Thurles last Saturday evening as the Limerick U-21 team produced a display rich in character and skill which saw them reach the All Ireland final.
It’s hard to beat a Limerick team that plays with pride, passion and honesty and we saw bucket loads of it from them as they beat Galway in what was a superb game of hurling. This was not a game for fancy flicks and ball tapping because the players got little time on the ball. It was a robust game that asked questions of Limerick players and to their credit they found answers. There was a lack of oxygen and space on the pitch and both sets of players went after the ball like greyhounds after the hare. As a team, this bunch of players is developing, they are playing well as a unit and working very hard for each other. The vast majority of them have come through from the minor teams of 2013/14 and that has stood to them. Credit to John Kiely who acknowledged the role of Brian Ryan and his management team in the way the players came to him.
The value of this win cannot be understated. Limerick needed this boost after what was a pretty poor year on the field. This win once more showed the quality of young players in the county and it proved how so many of them were overlooked by the senior set up. Nearly all of the team are underage again next year, but I like the maturity they are showing. I also like the ‘no fuss’ approach of the players and the management. No drama on the sideline rather just getting on with the job because the sideline must never become bigger or have priority over what takes place on the field. We have seen enough of that in Limerick.
I expected Limerick to start well in the game because of their run in Munster and they did. They ran at Galway and moved the ball with pace and it reaped reward. Limerick was dominant around the middle eight. Diarmuid Brynes and Gearoid Hegarty were impressive in defence while Darragh O’Donovan was the flame at midfield. Barry Nash in for his first game and only on the panel a few weeks won great ball in the air and that saw Limerick settle early and dominate the opening quarter. With seventeen minutes gone Limerick led 0-10 to 0-4 and it could well have been more. They ran Galway into the ground and were in total control. Brynes had given Limerick a great start with two early points and they built on that. Indeed Dave McCarthy made a great save almost seven minutes into the game which was vital. It helped lift the confidence of the team and they landed five points in the next ten minutes. Galway came more into the game in the second quarter. They hit some good scores, but I thought Fergal Horgan didn’t do Limerick any favours and allowed the game flow when clear cut frees should have been awarded. Some of the Limerick lads were struggling for pace as halftime approached. Limerick failed to score for almost twenty minutes of the first half and the sides were level at halftime. Tom Morrissey, Colin Ryan and Gearoid Hegarty had some good scores in that half.
Limerick was clearly the better team but at times some lads did a bit of showboating with the ball but also they overworked it. When they moved the ball fast Galway had few answers to them. Limerick have players with good hands so early ball will always provide opportunity for them. Readers will know how I have often written about David Dempsey and the quality this young man has and when it mattered most the Na Piarsaigh man delivered with some class. He scored some four points and made a fine contribution to his team’s win.
Brian Molloy was causing Limerick some problems as he landed some fine points but Limerick never stopped working. Tom Morrissey was the cause of some debate between the selectors in the picking of the team but to his credit, he scored some fine points and on bended knee he slotted home what was the most crucial score of the game. Colin Ryan once again showed the quality of his hands and hit the target with some good points while Ronan Lynch scored a cracking line ball and also hit some great frees.
This was a game that required Limerick to battle and they did. The game now demands players to give hits and take them. They must have the bottle to take on the challenge and drop the shoulder when necessary and in this regard I like the metal I am seeing in this team. The manager John Kiely and his selectors are obviously sending the right messages and the players are hurling for them. This win sets up a meeting now with Wexford who will be viewed as favourites but to me this Limerick team are well balanced and a better team all-round.