Limerick confidence is high

LIMERICK minor hurling team manager Tim O’Connor acknowledges that they may be carrying a heavy weight of expectation into tomorrow’s Munster final showdown against Cork as 21 years have passed since they were last crowned champions.

However, Dromcollogher-born O’Connor, nowadays associated with Na Piarsaigh, is optimistic that his team can achieve their goal.

“Confidence is high after our terrific, if unexpected, semi-final win over Tipperary. We have worked hard for this day and don’t want to let it slip.

“The atmosphere in the camp is terrific, and while the odds might be against us - in addition to having to wait over two decades for the title, and are also asked to take on Cork in their own backyard - we are not letting anything get in our way.”

What encourages O’Connor and his team is the huge swell of goodwill towards them.

“Limerick, unlike Cork, are crying out for a win in a provincial final and we want to deliver. Our supporters always carry high expectations and even though final tickets are limited by Shannonside, they will somehow find their way into the ground.”

It is very much a plus for Limerick, he says, that several of their players are accustomed to fielding in a variety of positions: “Sure, our training programme was upset because of the Leaving Certificate examination, but on the other side of the coin we had most of the hard work done anyway.”

He does not subscribe to the view that home advantage is a major factor for Cork. “We have given little thought to the fact that the match is at Páirc Uí Chaoímh. It is like any other ground and if you are good enough you will win.”

O’Connor pointed out they were in the final because of the excellent underage structure within the county.

“This team has been together for several years and beat all comers coming through the lower grades. There is a strong bond and we are all determined to bring the title back home.”

When Limerick last won the title, in GAA Centenary Year, they had in their side Gary Kirby, Anthony Carmody, Ger Hegarty, Mike Reale and Pat Davoren, all of whom went on to distinguish themselves at senior level.

Davoren scored two goals when Limerick beat Tipperary in the final 21 years ago and has been impressed by the current team’s march to the final. “They are a very well balanced side, strong in all the vital sectors and are also very skilful. What I liked about them was how they took the semi by the scruff of the neck against Tipperary. When they got in front they stayed there.”

The counties last met in the final in 2000, when Cork won on a scoreline of 2-19 to 1-10.

Cork coach Denis Ring has made a number of changes for the final, introducing Alan Brady at midfield and John Halbert at corner-forward.

Paudie O’Sullivan, brother of senior star Diarmuid and corner-forward for Cloyne in last year’s Cork SHC final, has been moved to centre-back, necessitating a move for Cathal Naughton of Newtownshandrum to the half-forward line.

Cork won last year’s provincial title in dramatic style against Tipperary, when substitute Eoin Murphy of Erin’s Own - this year’s centre-forward and brother of Kieran, a provincial medallist in 2000 - grabbed a sensational last-minute winner.

CORK: R O’Keeffe, E O’Sullivan, E Dillon, G O’Driscoll, S White, P O’Sullivan, T Murray, P O’Driscoll, A Brady, P Cronin, E Murphy, C Naughton, P Horgan, P O’Brien, J Halbert.

Subs: M Collins, C O’Driscoll, R Cashman, D Lynch, A Fenton, J Jordan, S Moylan, D O’Callaghan, A Mannix, P Finnegan.

LIMERICK: G Flynn; S Browne, L Hurley, T Condon, J Kelly, D Moloney, S Hickey; D Moore, D Hanley; G O’Mahony (c), J Ryan, B O’Sullivan, D O’Sullivan, D O’Connor, E Ryan.

Subs: P Kennedy, B Quinn, R McCarthy, S Herlihy, R Kennedy, G Allis, C Noonan, M Ryan, G Collins.

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