Celebration time in the Limerick U-21 hurling dressing room in Thurles
ALL Ireland senior hurling honours and the Liam McCarthy Cup isn’t too far away from Limerick predicts U-21 winning manager Pat Donnelly.
After guiding Limerick to the counties second All Ireland U-21 title in three years, Donnelly urged the rising stars to “keep their feet on the ground” and they “could be contesting Munster and All-Ireland finals”.
"The quality is there. It's just getting the application right. John Kiely (senior manager) and his backroom team will do that. They're very professional in what they're doing and these players have bought into that,” said Donnelly after the final win over Kilkenny.
"We had successful (U-21) teams back in the early noughties. There were lessons learned from that - the players now realise that they left things behind them. I think these lads will learn from the lessons and the whole county will learn from the lessons, keep focused and go to the next level,” said Donnelly.
”If you go back over the years and watch match programmes and look at profiles of players - they all have minor, U-21, colleges and all these lads have these now. There is no reason why Limerick can’t go on and be successful at senior level. The foundation is there for them now and they are lads that play with confidence,” said the South Liberties man.
He added: ”We have to mind them now for the next couple of years”.
”It was never going to happen overnight. People who got involved in the Underage Hurling Academy back seven years ago didn’t expect it to happen overnight - they were looking very very far ahead and you have to have faith in this. It’s working and we are getting there,” he vowed.
”Hopefully they keep their feet on the ground and keep their heads right and go on and perform for Limerick seniors in the future.”
From the championship start Limerick were on all short-lists for success and favourites for every game.
“We had the players from the start of the year - we knew we had the best team in the U-21 grade and luckily they were able to prove it,” he smiled.
”The favourites tag was with us all year but didn’t interfere with the performances - I think it gave the lads confidence and belief that they could win this All Ireland. I go back to January 6 when we met these inside in UL and all the squad were there and it felt like something special that night. Tom Morrissey spoke that night and we picked him as captain not long after and we said he would lead to us an All Ireland and thankfully that has panned out that way.”