The Cork under 21 team who will face Limerick on Wednesday night at the Gaelic Grounds
AS EXPECTED the Limerick U21 hurlers have secured their place in the Munster final against Cork.
Limerick easily accounted for Clare last week and now the stage is set for what looks like a great final with the high flying rebels.
With wins over Tipperary and Clare in the semi final and now home advantage again for the final I would expect to see close to fifteen thousand attend the game on the July 26.
Limerick have been impressive so far, but they didn’t get the sort of challenge they might have expected. It will be altogether different when Cork come to town because they will be well enthused from their win over Waterford.
It appeared Waterford had the game rapped up, but like Cork of old, they kept working and pulled an unlikely win out of the fire.
The most appealing aspect of Corks win over Waterford was that they never stopped working, they kept themselves in the game and were always hunting for ball. Limerick will need to set out their stall early, they will need to take every chance because if they don’t this Cork team have the quality to cause them real trouble.
The Limerick management will have seen for themselves the challenge Cork will bring and while I expect Limerick to win the final they can expect a far greater examination from Cork.
John Meyler is the Cork manager, he is also part of the senior hurling management team and his stamp is all over this Cork U21 side. He has a lot of experience at a high level and he will not fear the challenge of Limerick.
The experience that many of the Limerick players gained at minor level is standing to them now. They have a very good understanding of each other's play and the value of that can not be overstated.
Players like Colin Ryan, Tom Morrissey, Peter Casey, Barry Nash and Cian Lynch have been together for many years while Kyle Hayes is developing with every game at centre back. He was excellent again against Clare and overall the team looked sharper.
Cork hurling is back in a major way. Their confidence is up and the spirit you would always associate with them is back to its highest level in many years. Just because they had some tough years they didn’t stop working. Many of this group were really unlucky to lose out to Waterford at minor level after a replay. That Waterford side went onto win the All Ireland.
The level of success Cork have enjoyed at underage over the past four years is now starting to reap reward. They have taken things to a new level and not only have they got development squads in place they now also have a High Performance Unit.
Cork are going to bring a major challenge to Limerick. They have many fine players that have stood out at senior ranks such as Coleman, Meade, and Fitzgibbon to name just a few.
Darragh Fitzgibbon was very unlucky to have been sent off (on a straight red) and one would think they have good grounds to appeal.
Luke Meade was out for the Waterford game with a broken finger but is expected to be fully fit for the final.
Cork are going for a clean sweep of Munster titles, having already won minor and senior hurling. That wont linger with Limerick for too long, but they know this will be a different challenge altogether than what was presented by Tipperary and Clare.
Neither of those teams really tested Limerick and it will be interesting to see how they cope when Cork ask questions.
Limerick met Cork at minor level in 2014 and were pushed right to the finish. Cork had a chance of goal from a free late in the game but Limerick held out for a three point win.
The progress that some of the Cork players have made over the past couple of years has been significant. Those that have made it on to the Cork senior team have not only developed, they have become the leaders of the team.
These young men have had a major impact in Cork but they have also turned heads with their performances in the senior hurling championship.
Sometimes it doesn't always work out for players when they drop back to other grades but in the case of the Cork players they have made the step forward with great ease.
It’s not by accident that Cork are where they are this year, it has come about as a result of much planning and hard work.
The senior hurling management also made some hard calls and those calls have been rewarded. Twenty years has past since Cork last won an U21 title. That’s a life time for a county that has won eighteen in total. Limerick last won in 2015 and they have a group good enough to go all the way this year.
Limerick are playing a better style of hurling and it suits many of the players. They are direct and that suits the likes of Colin Ryan, Peter Casey and Barry Nash. The one area that Cork do have some cracks is in defence.
This should suit the likes of Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey. The closer to goal that Morrissey gets the ball, the better. Pace is not one of his strengths but he has craft, power and the ability to make space and that will cause problems for the Cork backs.
Colin Ryan has really stepped forward in the games to date. The Pallasgreen man is blessed with great skill and is not shy either. He has the steel to survive at this level and that’s very important in making the step to senior.
This would be an important win for Limerick. The county needs this victory. The year so far has not offered much other than the U25 win. That really is only a tournament and counties like Tipperary and Cork didn’t even enter teams in it. Its value is only cosmetic.
Winning against Cork will set the team up for All Ireland success and that has to offer some hope for the future. There is every chance that Cork supporters could out number Limerick and that would be a great pity. It’s really important that Limerick supporters come out and get behind this team. Support will be important because if Cork get a sniff of victory you can be sure they will be more than vocal.
Readers will know that last week I once again returned to the my perceived inaction of Limerick County Board and the current state of play in Limerick.
I was surprised by the numbers that contacted me and it offers some hope. The contacts were made from many levels of people in business and clubs and it was interesting to note the concerns of people in business that have in the past supported Limerick.
I hope the Limerick County Board have the good of Limerick GAA at heart. They should have a review of how things are done because I believe what they and others before them have done is proving not good enough.