Limerick U/21's have secured a final date with Kilkenny on September 9
Hurling in September is not something Limerick GAA is too familiar with, but thankfully that will be the case this year after the U21 team managed to hold off the very strong challenge of Galway last weekend.
This All Ireland semi final saw Limerick tested and in many regards they did well to win the game despite the fact that many players had poor performances.
The result will have posed some questions in relation to the team for the final as some players are struggling to find form.
As I stated last week, I expected this performance from Galway and they will be disappointed to loose. For long stages of the game they played better hurling than Limerick. Unlike Limerick, this was Galway’s first game in the championship and that cost them dearly as the game went into the melting pot.
The goals Limerick got came at crucial stages, because prior to that, Galway were on top. This was the case particularly in the first half where it took Limerick seven minutes to record their opening score.
Galway didn’t turn their dominance into authority, nor did they show it on the score board. Limerick were beaten in many positions and it took them sometime to come to terms with Galway who asked many questions of the Limerick half forward line and also the half back line.
Any analysis of this game from a Limerick point of view would show that Limerick were under pressure in many positions. They hit some very poor wides and the level of vision and lack of awareness from the forwards in particular could have cost them dearly.
Time after time the player in possession went for his own score instead of off loading to a player in a better position. They got away with it again in this game. I see all the selectors are listed as coaches with this team and I would hope they spend some time on this aspect of their game.
The standard overall is not great in this years championship and while some of the games have been close the quality has been poor.
That aside it’s good that Limerick have now booked their place in the All Ireland final. They will face Kilkenny who just about got over Limerick in the minor final of 2014.
Galway did really well for a team that came in cold to this All Ireland semi final, they showed a great willingness to work hard, they were strong on the ball and they made life difficult for a large number of Limerick players.
This was Limerick’s fourth outing in the championship and those previous games really stood to them in the last ten minutes. Galway were showing signs of fatigue and with players cramping they started to lose the grip they had in the game.
To Limericks credit they did rally, they showed for the ball when the game was in the balance but of more importance were the changes made by the management. The subs that came on did well and their contribution played a key part in getting Limerick over the line. We expected big performances from some of the established Limerick players but many of them struggled to get into the game.
Peter Casey got Limerick into the game in the opening half with his goal and then followed with two points. He showed well for the ball in the game but his shot selection and lack of vision saw him hit some bad wides.
Casey wasn’t the only player suffering from this. Limerick have the potential to score more goals but that will not happen unless they show a willingness to bring other players into the game.
Galway had some fine scores from Conor Whelan, Tom Monaghan, Sean Linnane and the impressive Brian Concannon. Aaron Gillane, Tom Grimes and Barry Nash had scores for Limerick.
There was much more cutting in Limerick in the second half. Barry Murphy had a good opening half at centre forward but he really came into the game when switched into the full forward line. He is a player that can make things look easy, he can do damage in small spaces and his goal after Barry Nash had first shot set the foundation for Limericks win.
It was noticeable that Galway were very good in the air and this is an area that many Limerick teams have suffered from. Limerick needed to make some changes and the introduction of Andrew La Touche Cosgrave, Conor Boylan and Jack O’Grady greatly improved matters.
Sean Finn and Tom Morrissey will need to find better form ahead of the final. Morrissey needs the ball around the twenty one yard line because outfield hurling is not an option for him. Andrew La Touche Cosgrave is a player that seemed to have lost some form and focus but he played really well when introduced.
Limerick showed some bottle to fight back again, three points in a row from Cosgrave, Hayes and Boylan saw Limerick lead by one after 50 minutes. From this point on Limerick took control. Cian Lynch and Tomas Grimes were winning some vital possession and the Galway challenge had faded.
Reaching this All Ireland final is important for Limerick, it’s the next stage of development for this group of players. They won with a bit to spare in the end but they will have to improve on their shooting. I watched the games a couple of times and some of the wides were unforgiveable. The Limerick management made the call to bring some established players off and they were right. They will need to show the same sort of metal in picking their team for the final. Some of the players that came on left a calling card and this will make training interesting for the next couple of weeks.
Kilkenny won their semi final with great ease. It must be noted that they didn’t play too many of their first choice team in this game.
Former player Eddie Brennan is their manager and he will have them ready for the final. I saw Kilkenny play in the Leinster championship and I think Limerick are ahead of them. Many of the minors they had in 2014 have not progressed and while they will be hard to beat I feel Limerick will have the measure of them. Limerick lost narrowly to Kilkenny in the minor final in 2014 and that I am sure will be in the minds of the Limerick players.
Overall it has been a very disappointing year in both hurling and football but the U21 team has rescued the season. I think Limerick will win the final, will it define them as players? No, it won’t but it will give them experience that if used well will aid their development as players. Underage titles are great and we like to see them coming to Limerick but all should be mindful that we have been here before.