Limerick Under 21 centre back Kyle Hayes
MORALE levels have been pretty low with Limerick GAA supporters since the senior hurlers lost the opening round of the championship to Clare.
They needed something to restore some confidence and it came last week when the U21 hurlers played Tipperary.
This was a game Limerick were expected to win but they also expressed themselves. This team was back boned by those good minors from 2014. Limerick started with nine of that team and ten of them are on the age. It will take a good team to beat this group of players.
I would stress that they will meet a more stern test along the way but this opening win will stand to them when the face Clare.
Just over three thousand attended the game and only for a brief spell after half time did Tipperary bring something to the table. Limerick played direct and the forwards had oceans of ball. They made good use of it and Tipperary were always hurling on the back foot.
For as good as this win was, I would think that Limerick have room for improvement. The game showed that they have a couple of positions to fill but the subs that came on did offer more than some of the lads that came off.
With the greatest of respect to Clare they found it hard to cope with Limerick in the grades at underage and I would expect Pat Donnelly's side to account for the Banner men.
Waterford and Cork will meet in the other semi final and Cork to me look like the winner of that encounter.
The standout player in the game was Kyle Hayes and with every game he is growing in confidence. He is still only nineteen but right now he is the best prospect Limerick have produced to fill centre back in the future.
Hayes is strong in many areas and is well able to push the man off when in possession. He uses the ball well and I like that he has a bit of steel that is needed to survive at this level. At times he does a bit of long handed hurling. By that I mean he uses the full length of the hurley. Centre back requires a player to be tidy and good forwards will pick up on that. Most of all though he is very honest, he will give his all and in time we will see the best of him. For a small club like Kildimo/ Pallaskenry to have players like Kyle Hayes coming along is really good.
This club has given a fair few players to county teams over the past few years at underage level and it is great to see many of them now making the transition. I have said before that players like Hayes, Barry O’Connell and others, not in senior clubs, should be allowed play senior club hurling with their nearest senior club. It would help the players development but it would also help develop a club championship that is in need of a major boost.
One of the nice things about this game was that Limerick played the type of hurling that suits them.
When they do look back on the footage of the game they will see that at times they took too much out of the ball. They will also see that some of the ball into the full forward line could be improved. Peter Casey will know what I am talking about here. He needs it low or chest high but he didn’t get much of that in this game.
Instead it came too high and it gave him little chance of doing real damage. That’s said Casey made good use of what he got and worked hard.
This was a positive result for Limerick and one they can build upon. Cian Lynch showed real leadership in attack. So did Aaron Gillane while Tom Morrissey did well close to goal. The Ahane man will get best results from the full forward position and needs the ball inside the 20 meter line. From a defensive point of view Limerick were hurt on a few occasions by Mark Kehoe and Ger Browne. We saw Limerick defenders going up field and on one occasion Sean Finn was lucky.
Limerick have the tools to win this championship but learning from games like last week will stand to the team down the line.
On the Senior front, few teams have good experiences when they go to Nolan Park but Limerick senior hurlers would hope to change that next Saturday evening when they face favourites Kilkenny.
This is a challenge for sure but if Limerick shake up things as far as team selection is concerned I feel they have a good chance.
Kilkenny will be hurting from that loss to Wexford and they will see this game with Limerick as a way of getting back on the championship road. Brian Cody shipped some criticism for the way his team performed against Wexford and he will be looking for a big response from all concerned this weekend. Many of his top players just didn’t preform while others went into the game injured.
How Limerick line out will be important but having Diarmuid Byrnes and Gearoid Hegarty back will add much needed strength to the team. There is some doubt that Hegarty might not make it.
I see this game as a great opportunity for Limerick to make a statement. Most people won’t back them to win this game but Kilkenny are not what they were. Limerick will need to throw caution to the wind. Just go out, have a lash and express themselves. I know that Kilkenny have put in a couple of good weeks in training and having the game at home is a big advantage to them. Their own supporters know that they are no where near the power that they once were. They have slipped a fair degree over the past year or so but I still expect them to show real hunger on home soil.
Over the years Kilkenny have always bounced back under Cody and some of the players that were not fully fit for the Wexford game will be in better shape this time round.
The view amongst many Limerick supporters is that the management must make a few changes. They would like to see some new blood get a chance and regardless of the result be ready for the future. Making the big calls for such an important game will not be easy but as I have said before the right call is never wrong.
If Limerick try and play a short hand passing game with Kilkenny they will suffer. If they bring the ball into the tackle they will also suffer. They will need to be direct, they will need to go route one and put the ball into “D” where scores come from.
How Limerick place their team will have a big impact on the game. I said last week that I would put Seamus Hickey at corner back. Byrnes coming in at half back will help greatly but might it be time to give someone like Colin Ryan a go at half back?
It’s really sad that once again many people will miss the game because of the deal the GAA have done with Sky TV. To me it’s against everything the GAA was founded on. It’s important that Limerick have strong support for this game because Kilkenny will travel in large numbers for this crucial home game.
I give Limerick a real chance if they play with hunger, work rate and the passion that we know made Limerick difficult to beat in the past.