Limerick Minor hurling manager Diarmuid Mullins
MUNSTER champions Limerick will look to book a first All-Ireland minor hurling final appearance since 2016 when tackling beaten Leinster finalists Kilkenny in Saturday’s semi-final showdown at Croke Park, 4pm. Limerick go into this weekend’s clash on the back of a five-game unbeaten run in Munster which culminated in their impressive provincial final win over Clare at the LIT Gaelic Grounds.
The Shannonsiders’ are now just 60 minutes away from an All-Ireland minor final appearance which would be Limerick’s third in six years.
Saturday’s opponents Kilkenny lost out to Wexford in the Leinster final, before re-igniting their All-Ireland dreams with wins over both Clare and Galway.
Four weeks have passed since Limerick’s eighth Munster final success and while Kilkenny have played two competitive fixtures since that time, the Shannonsiders’ manager Diarmuid Mullins does not believe the four-week lay-off will have a negative impact on his charges.
Diarmuid Mullins said: “The four week gap since the Munster final has been pretty straight forward enough. What we decided to do was allow the lads back to play two rounds of minor club championship which I think went well.
“We did train on the Monday between the two rounds of club championship, but I think it was good for the lads to play some competitive games at club level, especially considering that club is U18, so it gave our guys good games in that two week period.
“Since then we regrouped and have trained away for the last two weeks, so we are in good shape.
“Look, Kilkenny have had two competitive games during that period, they have played Clare and Galway, so they might have found out a little bit more about themselves after losing the Leinster final, but I think we have prepared well.
“I am happy enough that we will be up to the pace of the game. In terms of training, the lads' intensity has been really good.”
Mullins is confident that the young side will not be inhibited by playing in the vast surrounds of Croke Park for the first time.
Mullins added: “Kilkenny have had two run-outs in Croke Park, so you could point that to being a bit of an advantage to them, but I think the group we have this year a lot of them mightn't have played in Semple Stadium before, they went down there and played really well.
“I think they have adjusted to all of the different challenges that have been put in front of them. The pitch in Croke Park is probably the widest in Ireland and the longest.
“What we have been saying to the lads is that the reason that they are getting the opportunity to play in Croke Park is because of all of the hard work they have put in to get to this stage and really it is not something to be getting nervous about or to be worried about, it is something to be excited about, the prospect of playing in the best pitch in Ireland on one of the biggest days.
“We need to be relaxed about it. I think when we are relaxed we perform at our best. I don't sense from the players that there is any issue around that. I think they are really focused for the game on Saturday.”
However, Limerick must plan without the injured duo of Diarmuid Hegarty and captain Michael Keane for Saturday’s semi-final.
“Unfortunately Diarmuid Hegarty tore his cruciate ligament playing a club game which is disappointing for him because he was coming right back into real good form and I think he would have featured on Saturday.
“Saturday will come a little bit too soon for Michael Keane, our captain. He is still rehabbing the hamstring injury he got against Clare in the round robin stages.”