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Just 3 Years Left - Senior Success Around The Corner For Limerick Hurling

Just 3 Years Left - Senior Success Around The Corner For Limerick Hurling
By Arthur James O'Dea

For the second time in three years, Limerick will feature in the U-21 Hurling final. Having reached two minor finals in 2014 and 2016, their heavily funded academy system has delivered on it's initial remit - make Limerick a force at underage level again.

Implementing a structure that will ultimately address Liam MacCarthy's extended absence from the county, John Kiely, the man who led Limerick's U-21s to All-Ireland success two years ago, is now in charge of the senior panel.

His replacement, Pat Donnelly, is aware that tomorrow's final against Kilkenny is not therefore an end in itself:

These lads have a goal in life: To win a senior All-Ireland. They have beaten Tipperary, Clare, Cork and Galway in this year's U-21 championship and that is huge, so the icing on the cake would be to win the All-Ireland.

With nine of Donnelly's team having featured in the senior setup this year, the transition is already in motion; Cian Lynch, Sean Finn, Kyle Hayes and Peter Casey all started as Limerick narrowly lost out to Kilkenny in their June qualifier.

However, speaking to the Irish Examiner, Donnelly has a very specific idea of when he expects the full-effects of Limerick's underage work to come to fruition:

I said it three or four years ago that I thought it would be 2020 when that happens.

This is probably the best opportunity. These lads have been there together since U-14 level. They're very disciplined and do all the right things and, if they stick with it, they have a great chance.

Reasons to be cheerful for Limerick's long-suffering fans, they are nonetheless aware that success at underage level guarantees very little.

Between 2000 and 2002, an U-21 side featuring hurlers like Niall Moran, Andrew O'Shaughnessy and Damien Reale were part of Limerick's three-in-a-row winning side. Although many of them would be present as Limerick reached the All-Ireland final in 2007, the hope and expectation surrounding that young crop of players never materialised.

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Taking inspiration from the likes of Waterford and Clare, Donnelly will be doing all he can to make sure the same mistakes are not made again in harnessing the obvious potential there.

Beating Eddie Brennan's Kilkenny tomorrow would be a positive start.

 

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