IT says a lot about the progress of the Limerick Underage Hurling Academy that Croke Park was their target destination at the outset of the 2016 season.
“To be honest when we met the players first on October 14 last year Croke Park was our target - there was nothing about Munster championships or All Irelands, it was just get to Croke Park,” revealed selector Brian Foley.
”And that has been achieved and now we just want to go and finish the job and win it,” stressed Foley.
Twenty years ago Foley was himself a Limerick minor.
“It was 1996 and we lost to Tipperary 2-14 to 0-3 - it was a one off game in those days,” he recalled of a side that was coached by Ger Hegarty.
But now all is very different, in terms of the competition structures and team preparation.
“It can be traced back to Lifting The Treaty when Shane Fitzgibbon was involved and now Joe McKenna has taken it up. The one thing that the academy is, is organised - at minor level level there isn’t much between the top teams and the margins are small. If you are organised you are competing,” explained Foley.
“It’s not always about winning at underage, at U-14, U-15, U-16 but we need to be competitive and develop young lads and hopefully some of these minors will go on and play for Limerick seniors some day.”
“The minors are the flagship team of the academy - when you start out as a six year old playing hurling you want to play for Limerick and the Tony Forristal is the start of that and then the minors is where you want to be.”
The Adare native was also a selector last season when the campaign ended at the All Ireland quarter final stage.
“Last year we got to a Munster final against Tipperary and were up 0-10 to 0-8 at half time and it was a great game but we lost 0-20 to 0-17 and then we had Galway and we were down and out after losing to Tipperary and Galway caught us. The one thing that we learned was that if we were in that position again that we needed to regroup. We put our hand up, all of us, and said the Tipperary game hurt us last year.”
And, lessons learned were put into practise after July’s 17-point provincial final defeat.
“We lost and lost heavily but we regrouped and that championship was over and we focused on the All Ireland championship. We tried to get rid of that hurt after losing to Tipp - we had a few meetings with long faces to see where we went wrong. Obviously we tried to learn from what went wrong and focused on Wexford,” said Foley.
“Wexford was a very workman like performance and then we were delighted with the display against Dublin but we know we are playing a formidable side in Tipperary - finals are finals and there to be won so please god we can do it.”
“We are in a final but under no illusions that this is a very good Tipp side but it’s all on a day and we didn’t turn up on Munster final day and please God on Sunday if we turn up we have a chance.”
The Waterford based secondary school teacher added: “They are as well prepared as possible but once they step inside the white lines its down to the players to try and right the wrongs of the Munster final”.
“We have 34 going to Dublin and 24 will get a jersey but they are all in it together and while there is disappointment there if a lad misses out he is the first to shake the mans hand and wish him luck and that tells a lot about the lads.”