O’Connell has been in America for the last couple of months but the return of the Abbeydorney player is a huge boost to Kerry’s attacking options. O’Connell fired 0-10 when Kerry triumphed against Meath in the final of this competition last year and then struck 1-9 when the Kerry senior side tasted success in this year’s Christy Ring Cup final against Wicklow at the start of June.
“It’s a huge help to us to have Darragh back”, admitted Meyler. “He was a very important player for us last year and has shown his scoring ability. We have John Brendan O’Halloran, our goalkeeper last year, also back in the squad as he’s been in America for the summer as well.”
This competition has been kind to Kerry in recent years and they are chasing their third successive crown this evening. “It’s been good for us in helping develop players for senior level. Darragh and Shane (Nolan) are two players that emerged strongly for the seniors as a result of their performances at this grade. Padraig Boyle was brilliant last year in the final as well but unfortunately he is out injured at the moment.
“The hope is that from this current team we can get more players to improve our senior squad. Brian Murphy and Brendan Brosnan are two young players in our team that are only 19 years old but an experience like this will stand to them. These games give them a stage on which to perform.”
Kerry have not collided recently with Westmeath at this level but Meyler is aware of their capabilities from recent Christy Ring Cup battles.
“We lost by a point to Westmeath in the Christy Ring final last year and they’re really developing as a county. Guys like John Gilligan and Aidan McGrath played for the seniors this year, and they’re both still U21. They’ve had a great year as they showed by running Galway to a point in the Leinster senior championship and there’s a lot of work being put into hurling in the county. Their U21’s will be similar and will be tough to beat.”
KERRY U21H: M Stackpoole; J O’Connor, B Murphy, J Bowler; PJ Keane, A Fealy, J Leahy; B Brosnan, S Dowling; D O’Connell, R Kenny, P O’Keeffe; C Harty, S Nolan, PJ Connolly.
Subs: N Leen, S Leen, A Carroll, B Leen, K Orpen, S Weir, A O’Leary, A White, JB O’Halloran, C Fitzelle, M O’Sullivan, G Marshall, T Quill.
WESTMEATH U21H: TBC