Limerick U-21 hurling manager Pat Donnelly
LESS than 12-months after guiding Limerick to a Croke Park All Ireland minor hurling final, Pat Donnelly bids to guide Limerick to an All Ireland U-21 hurling final this Saturday.
His Limerick team play Galway at 6.00 in Thurles in a semi final that is live on TG4.
The South Liberties man has stressed a need for focus, dismissing any talk of Limerick’s tag of 1/6 hot favourites.
Donnelly speaks from experience.
Back in 2011, Limerick won an epic extra time Munster U-21 final against Cork but then fell in the All Ireland semi final to Galway.
Donnelly was a selector in that Leo O’Connor managed team.
Only minutes after Limerick beat Cork last month to claim another provincial U-21 title, Donnelly recalled the pitfalls of that 2011 Galway defeat and vowed there would be no repeat.
The Limerick manager for one is certainly not writing off Galway.
"They were all Ireland minor hurling champions two years ago," he outlines.
Indeed Galway beat Limerick enroute to that title.
“They have good players and if they click and get a run on us they will cause problems. But it’s the same for us, we have good players and will look to get a run on them,” said Donnelly.
“They played Dublin and Kilkenny in challenge games and we have looked to gather some info from them,” explained the manager, adding that Limerick expected a “physical” challenge.
But three years ago at minor level, Limerick were comprehensive winners.
”That was the best performance from this team, everything went right that day in Croke Park,” recalled Donnelly of the Brian Ryan managed side.
”It’s no bearing really - that was three years ago.”
This season Limerick have beaten Tipperary, Clare and Cork but Saturday will be Galway’s maiden voyage into 2017.
“They have the advantage in that they got to look at us three times. We have to focus on ourselves - we don’t know what they will bring.”
The sides didn’t play in pre-season challenge games.
“We stayed away from them!” said the Limerick manager.
He added: “We have to focus on ourselves.”
Limerick had double-digit winning margins to reach the provincial final and then two points to spare over Cork to claim an eighth Munster title.
Key to the hat-trick of wins has been a strong start.
”You always hopes for a good start and it’s a big plus when you do. I am sure Galway will look at . It’s a concern for them maybe more than us. If it happens, it happens, there is no science.”
While Limerick have blitzed opponents with scoring bursts, they have also being guilty of allowing opponents gain an unlikely foothold.
“If you look at any game it is going to happen. In the first two matches they were going so well that they took the foot off the pedal. The hope would be though that when all is not going well that you work hard,” stressed Donnelly.
With 14 All Ireland U-21 winners in his extended panel, there is a wealth of experience in this Limerick set-up.
“There is a lot of experience there - a lot from last year and from the year before - there are no excuses in that regard,” said the manager.
He praised the players for their attention to detail since winning the Munster title.
”What we have noticed is that the subs are going really well. Lads are coming into form that weren’t maybe at their best earlier in the year and they are really putting on the pressure. We have trained very hard in the last week. All has been excellent - no injuries. We have been lucky and can have no complaints,” said Donnelly, a 1987 All Ireland U-21 winner.