Limerick top scorer Cathal O'Neill
LIMERICK and Tipperary meet in the Munster minor hurling final for the third time in four years this Sunday.
It's a fifth provincial decider in six years for the teenagers in green but Tipperary have won the last two finals; 2016 and 2015.
Uniquely, it’s a 11.30am start for the minor hurlers of Limerick and Tipperary in Thurles – the curtain-raiser to the Munster SHC final between Clare and Cork.
It was all change for the minor championship this Summer – the age grade is now U-17 and the format mirrored the senior hurling. Limerick arrive in Thurles as table topper with three wins and just one defeat. In round one Limerick had a 1-17 to 2-12 win over Tipperary.
Limerick are managed by Antoin Power and his backroom team of coaches/selectors; Alan Browne, John Meskell, Paul Dowling, Sean Og Herbert and strength and conditioning coach Darragh Droog.
They have used 23 players enroute to this final – 18 in starting roles. Among this group are Patrick Kirby and Diarmuid Hegarty – sons of Gary Kirby and Ger Hegarty, who were both on the last Limerick minor hurling team to beat Tipperary in a Munster final. Twelve of the team has remained unchanged throughout the four game run to the final.
Sunday will be Limerick’s 29th Munster MHC final – the 15th against Tipperary. Limerick have won just three of the previous 15 finals against The Premier County – 1984, 1965 and 1963.
In total Limerick have seven Munster minor hurling titles – the last the back-to-back wins of 2013 and 2014.
In reaching Sunday’s final, the Limerick teenagers have scored 4-71 – one goal in each of the four games. They have conceded 6-63. Ardscoil Ris Harty Cup winner Cathal O’Neill is leading the way with 1-33 (14frees, 5 ‘65). Cormac Ryan has 3-3, while Bob Purcell, the only panelist to sit the Leaving Certificate, has scored 0-11.
Former South Liberties senior hurling coach Tommy Dunne, is the Tipperary minor hurling manager. The 2001 All Ireland SHC winning captain has seen his side reach the final with two wins and two defeats. But still they have scored 11 goals and only conceded five. The scoring sensations for Tipp are Sean Hayes with 6-4 while free-taker James Devaney has 1-21.
Victory in the Munster final will ensure a All Ireland minor semi final on July 28/29 in Croke Park.Defeat in the Munster final would see Limerick into the new quarter final group phase where two of the three teams reach the semi final. The beaten Munster finalists play Galway on July 7/8 and then the beaten Leinster finalist (Kilkenny or Dublin) on July 14/15 or July 21/22.
Limerick are captained by Kyran O’Donnell, whom injury has prevented him from starting any game to-date so Jack Nicholas has stepped in as vice-captain.
LIMERICK panel: Michael Keane (Adare), Padraig Harnett and Andrew Shanahan (both Ahane), Patrick Byrne and Micheal Martin (both Ballybricken-Bohermore), Barry O'Connor, Conor O'Neill and Colin Coughlan (all Ballybrown), Jimmy Quilty (Blackrock), Danny O'Leary (Bruff), Ben Herlihy and David Riordan (both Castletown-Ballyagran), Dean Kennedy and Cian Casey (both Claughaun), James Conheady and Cathal O'Neill (both Crecora-Manister), Bob Purcell and Cormac Ryan (both Doon), Frankie Herr (Effin), Eoin O'Mahony and Bryan Heavey (both Garryspillane), Gearoid Lynch (Granagh-Ballingarry), Killian Real (Hospital-Herbertstown), James Mason (Kildimo-Pallaskenry), Seamus Hurley (Mungret St Pauls), Jack Nicholas and David Hickey (both Murroe-Boher), Emmet McEvoy (Na Piarsaigh), Bryan Nix (Newcastle West), Kyran O'Donnell (Pallasgreen), Cian Enright and Patrick Kirby (both Patrickswell), Diarmuid Hegarty (St Patricks).