Limerick supporters celebrate winning the Munster U/21 title
The sight of Limerick supporters holding centre stage at the foot of the Mackey Stand and watching Tom Morrissey lifting the U21 Munster cup in his hand would fill your heart with joy and some hope for the future.
Limerick were hot favourites for this win, but on the night Cork showed many qualities to push Limerick to their very limit.
At one stage Limerick looked like they had the game well wrapped up in the opening half and I got the sense the players believed it themselves at that point.
They were ahead by seven points to no score and Limerick players had shown us as many fist pumps as scores at this stage.
Cork, despite not scoring, had done ok but finding scores proved difficult. Colin Ryan was the man that controlled matters for Limerick. He was in charge around midfield and his ability to win ball in the air and bring others into play proved a key ingredient in Limerick doing so well.
Cork showed a great appetite for work and they started to make inroads with the amount of hooks and blocks they got in. Mark Coleman has enjoyed a superb year for Cork both at senior and U21 and he was the best player on view in this contest. The quality of ball he supplied to the forwards brought Cork into the game.
The Limerick halfback line had a very solid opening half, Kyle Hayes was the sweeper and covered in front of the full backline. Ronan Lynch is coming into more form and his 80 meter ground ball was one of the most pleasing sights I have seen in hurling for a while. Thomas Grimes played his finest game in the green and white, he won good ball in the air and also contributed two points.
Once Cork came to terms with the pace of the game they settled down well but they didn’t always use the ball well.
They were making inroads in defence where some Limerick players were clearly struggling to find form. It was surprising that when Limerick had the strong wind that they didn’t make better use of it. The ball going into the full forward line was very wide, too wide and needed to be more direct. It’s been a pattern with all Limerick teams this year that they are more inclined to hit the sidelines that put the ball in around the “D”.
Cork were well in this game but they found it hard to score, they needed a break and when Tim O’Mahony goaled just before half time it gave them a much needed boost.
O’Mahony slipped Sean Finn with a great turn of foot and the Bruff man was stranded. The game needed that goal and it meant Limerick would have to fight to the end to win this game.
Cork showed us much more in the second half, they upped their work rate and made life difficult for Limerick. They took them on and exposed some weaknesses in the Limerick set up.
Limerick once again fell asleep and went eighteen minutes without a score. They should have been punished more for such a lapse but to their credit they showed fighting qualities to stay in the game.
They were in trouble in attack and a sign of this was when you see the likes of Peter Casey and Tom Morrissey taken off. Cian Lynch was covering a lot of ground and his efforts to go deep into defence were of serious assistance when Cork were making hay.
Barry Nash was also winning battles but corner forward is not his position.
I really can't understand why he is not in the half forward line. Ideally I think he would make a very good centre forward. Once he wins the ball he will attack and some thought must be given to playing him here. When I look at Nash at the moment I am seeing a frustrated hurler, he has so much more to give. Let him free to roam and he will reward.
As well as not playing well, Limerick hit some terrible wides. That could have proven to be very costly and while winning is great the management will have lots to work on for the All Ireland semi final.
If Cork had difficulty in getting frees in the first half they had even more in the second half and one could see their management were really upset by this.
Cork dominated Limerick for twenty or more minutes in the second half and while they wore them down they never quite managed to turn the screw on them. Much of that was due to Lynch’s work rate and a better contribution from Robbie Hanley in the second half. Darragh Fanning also let it be known that he was around and he did well on a few different markers.
Aaron Gillane was not as prominent as previous games but he did make a fine contribution. Mikey Mackey had a couple of points but he found the going difficult.
If Mackey was to change one thing in his game, it is this, less running with the ball. Be happy to win it and be happy to move it on. The rest will fall into place in time. I do think this lad has a future but at times he just tries to do too much with the ball. He will have learned a lot from that game and confidence will be worth space to him in the future.
Limerick will face Galway in the All Ireland semi final and on paper at least I would think Limerick have the advantage here. Limerick had the better of Galway at minor level but Galway came back the following year to win the All Ireland minor title.
The success that Limerick had with those minors in 2013/14 has reaped big reward for Limerick. Sad to see that none of the management of those teams are even good enough to carry a water bottle now.
If Limerick fail to bring players through, the same can be said of people involved in management of our underage teams.
This win was needed, it has helped to ease the heartbreak of yet another poor year at senior and minor.
As I have said before it’s only a win, a win that should be considered a step towards better things for Limerick. This win has also raised the pressure on the senior management. Limerick have won two Munster minor titles, one U21 All Ireland and now another U21 Munster title since 2013. That talent has to be developed otherwise such a harvest will be lost like so many great crops in the past.
Winning provides hope and it would be great to see this team fulfilling their ambition. I said some months ago that Limerick had the best team in the country and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
It was fitting at last weeks U21 hurling final that a minutes silence was held for former Feenagh Kilmeedy hurler Denis (Den) Murrihy. Den played hurling at a time when it was a case of hit first and ask questions later. He gave outstanding service to his club and was very well respected in the GAA and in his community. Large crowds turned up at his funeral and many that hurled against him remembered his on the field. To his wife and family I offer my sincere sympathy.