There were joyous scenes in the Gaelic Grounds this Wednesday evening as Limerick, boosted by their home support defeated Cork to win the Munster u-21 title.
A crowd of 11,774 were in attendance as the hosts flew out of the blocks and never let Cork catch them – keeping the Rebels at arms length throughout the hour – before anervous finish.
After putting up scores of 2-24 and 1-28 in their opening two games, this was a fancied Limerick side – and they lived up to expectations in gettting the win in what has not been a great year for Limerick hurling.
The Shannonsiders are now on course for a second All-Ireland title at the grade in three years – now just two wins away from another national title.
Ahead 0-13 to 1-4 five minutes into the second half a routine win was expected. However, John Meyler’s Cork fought to the very end, making Limerick sweat for the title.
The win was secured when substitute Conor Boylan won a 60th minute free – which Aaron Gillane converted – giving the winners a four-point lead – Cork running out of time in search of a comeback.
Fast start for Limerick
Cork played a one-man full forward line and the tactic didn’t work in the opening exchanges. Within a dozen minutes, Limerick were 0-5 to no score ahead. Mark Coleman as sweeper wasn’t having the desired effect either.
Points from wing backs Ronan Lynch (free) and Thomas Grimes made it 0-7 to no score inside the opening quarter before Shane Kingston eventually opened the Cork account.
County players showed their class
Limerick’s forward line was littered with senior talent. Cian Lynch’s distribution was good, even if he wasn’t getting the scores. In the corners Barry Nash and Peter Casey were a constant threat.
Ronan Lynch also scored 0-2 from long range frees, showing coolness under pressure to get Limerick well ahead early on. As well as that, Kyle Hayes ran the show. Admittedly, he was sweeping, but he played the role to perfection.
Cork’s clean sweep doesn’t materialise
It has been a great year for Cork hurling and this would have been the icing on the cake. Having won the senior, minor and u-17 Munster titles, this would have been an extraordinary achievement.
However, now Mark Coleman and Shane Kingston – who fought gallantly – will have to refocus and set their sides on Waterford in the senior semi-final.
For Limerick, this is their last team involved in the championship, so this tite is the sole focus for the Shannonsiders.
Pat Donnelly’s men showed character to see out the win, but for Cork, they have bigger prizes in their line of vision.
Galway up next
As ever, we don’t know a lot about Galway as they go straight into the last four. While they only have to get up for two games, they face the Munster chamions, a Limerick team that have beaten three top hurling counties – Tipperary, Clare and Cork – and have a settled team so they come into the All-Ireland semi-final with a lot of momentum.
The Tribesmen have seen a lot of Limerick and have time to come up with a plan to nullify their significant threats – they will have taken note at how extra defenders didn’t work for Cork.
How far can they go?
With a number of players who won the All-Ireland title in 2015, Limerick are in a good position to reclaim that title. Kilkenny are backboned by players who had successful outings at minor level so are very much in the hunt also.
However, with Limerick’s spine so strong they have to be favourites. Colin Ryan at midfield was superb and with the aforementioned Hayes at cente back they have the perfect playform for the attack.
Other players like Grimes, Dan Joy and Robbie Hanley showed that it isn’t just the senior players who are key for Pat Donnelly’s side.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena