Limerick minor hurlers and minor footballers along with the county's U20 hurlers will finally get to see Munster championship action this Saturday
YOU can only begin to imagine the excitement for the inter-county minor hurling and football and U20 hurlers who are set to be involved in Munster championship action this Saturday.
These have been the 'on again, off again, on again, off again and finally on again' inter-county championships due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the minor hurlers and footballers in championship action this Saturday, being involved at this level of inter-county GAA is a real milestone.
From the time these talented young GAA players went to their first county trial probably back as a 13-year-old, they dreamed and longed to pull on their county jersey.
For some there's been the disappointment of not getting selected at an inter-county trial or two along the way. And so much comes down to how the teenagers react to that setback. The ability to pick themselves up, train hard with the club, impress in club championship fixtures and then hope to take that form into the next year's county trial.
The ability to handle the adversity of not making the county squad very often will determine whether they do so up along through the various age groups.
But for the current crop of inter-county minor hurlers, footballers and U20 hurlers it has been a year like no other.
For the minor hurlers, they had initially been looking forward to playing four big round robin fixtures in the Munster championship on the same day as the county's senior side was in action. Big crowds, big venues, big buzz, big atmosphere, big excitement. But Covid-19 quickly put paid to that last spring.
It looked like there wouldn't be any inter-county championship this year at all. Then came a reprieve and the go-ahead for the senior inter-county championship.
However, the green light for the under-age inter-county championships went out for the hurlers after the two quarter-finals were played in the Munster due to Covid-19 restrictions, while a ball had yet to be kicked in the Munster minor football championship. The quarter-finals had also been played in the Munster U20 hurling championship.
Then, almost overnight, with the country's move from Level 5 to Level 3 restrictions, the go-ahead was given for the staging of further fixtures in the provincial minor hurling, minor hurling and U20 championships last week.
The games were back on again, but the lead-in time to fixtures is very short with Limerick's minor hurlers, minor footballers and U20 hurlers also facing knock-out championship games this Saturday afternoon.
The preparation time has been short for management teams and players alike.
The fact that the lead-in time to Saturday's games has been so short is likely to prove something of a leveller in some games at least, There is little or no competitive form from 2020 to go on.
A lot will depend on how the various teams have handled the lay-off from competitive action and their interrupted preparations.
But at least these talented young sports people, lucky enough to make the matchday squad, will get a chance to don their county jersey and run out at some of the biggest GAA venues in the province.
It will be an occasion for all to remember, especially for the winners, of course. But even for those who end up on losing teams it will be a memory that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
I'm sure the parents of these players will feel a great sense of relief that, knowing that after all the hard work their sons put in over the years , they will get the chance to fulfil that longheld ambition on Saturday. Best of luck to all.