Limerick are U-21 All-Ireland hurling champions, after beating Kilkenny by six points in today’s decider. The Treaty were full value for their difficult All-Ireland triumph, going through Tipperary, Clare, Cork and Galway to reach the decider.
Few can begrudge the young side, that boasts a number of real talents who can make their mark on the senior grade in the coming years.
Speaking after the game, manager Pat Donnelly, who was over the minor side last year, laid out just how important this win was for the county as a whole.
“It’s a massive change [from the minor final 12 months ago]. We were devastated. We knew we were probably beaten by a better team on the day, which probably takes a but of the pain away.
“If we had lost here today by a last-minute score I don’t think we’d ever recover from it.”
Limerick have now won two titles at the grade in three years, as focus now turns to whether this group can deliver at senior level. The last time they enjoyed this degree of underage success was the U-21 three-in-a-row between 2000-02. However, that side failed to bring the Liam MacCarthy back to the Shannonside.
Donnelly is hopeful that this team can push on in the coming years.
“Hopefully, they keep their feet on the ground, they keep their heads right, and they go on and perform for the Limerick seniors in the future.
“There’s no reason why Limerick can’t go on and be successful at senior level, because the foundation is there now. They are lads that can play with confidence, just minding them now for the next couple of years is the biggest thing.”
He had tremendous faith in the group from the start of the year.
“We knew we had the best team in the U-21 grade, and they were able to produce it.
“At the start of the year, we looked at the forwards, and said that we’ve the best forwards in the country. What are we going to do with defence? We got six lads together, and I think they have been the rock that this has been built on.”
“The favourties tag was with us all year and it didn’t interfere with the performances.
“The lads played very well. They used themselves very well. There was no panic.”
Can this group now push on at senior level and win Limerick’s first All-Ireland title since 1973?