Moreover, since the inception of the competition in 1928, Limerick and Waterford’s combined title count just about reaches double figures.
Further context. Limerick will tomorrow attempt to successfully retain their crown, a feat never achieved by the Treaty County, while the Déise are appearing in their fifth decider in six years.
There is no doubt Munster’s underage landscape has undergone a seismic shift, the traditional powers of Cork and Tipperary drowned in the forceful rise of counties who were historically perceived as lesser forces when it came to minor level.
Back in 2011, a document mapping out the future of underage hurling in Limerick was published, no longer would they wait in the hope a group of outstanding young hurlers would present themselves. A proactive rather than a reactive approach was adopted.
“There was a recognition that the underage set-up needed to be addressed in order to meet the needs of young hurlers as they progressed in the sport and ultimately broaden the talent pool available to Limerick,” said Áine MacNamara at the time, a lecturer in Elite Sports Performance and Exercise Psychology and a member of the group involved in drafting the document.
“Within underage sport there is often a tension between short-term success and long-term development — young hurlers often miss crucial, long-term development opportunities because of a misplaced focus on performance — winning as the priority at underage levels — rather than learning and development towards senior success,” she continued.
A year after the establishment of the hurling academy, Jerry Wallis was brought in as Limerick minor hurling coach and head coach of the underage program.
The former Cork hurling trainer was intrigued by a system, to borrow MacNamara’s phrase, which focused more on the development and education of young hurlers than breeding a win at all costs mentality. Aside from his minor duties, Wallis’ primary goal was to ensure a common sense approach was applied across the various underage squads.
Furthermore, he was charged with organising and overseeing the coach mentorship program which provided opportunities for coaches to adequately hone their skills.
“In the last 10 years there has been a massive change with regard to underage dominance in Munster. I have noticed that the counties of Waterford, Limerick and Clare – they took a serious look at their underage structures. They have firmed up their structures, got very good people involved and put together very good development squads,” he said.
“It has been more a development process than a win at all costs process here in Limerick. The two counties at this moment in time appear to be at the cutting edge of underage hurling. I think that is being reflected at post-primary level in that Waterford and Limerick schools have been very successful.
“I have been involved in the running of the academy with Joe McKenna, Eibhear O’Dea and County Board secretary Mike O’Riordan. What they have put in place is very much a learning system and a system that incorporates a lot of underage players. Fortunately enough this is the second year we’ve been in the Munster minor final and that is lighting up the imagination and desire of all those young lads at U14 and U15 level.
“We are working off numbers more so than specific squads because a boy at 14, while he mightn’t be perceived as a good hurler for his age but is accommodated within the system, by the age of 17 or 18 could be a very good minor. It is more about encompassing lads rather than taking the best and looking after them. I think a lot of the lads playing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh tomorrow have acknowledged the education they received in the last three years, the mind-set it created and how beneficial it was.”
As for tomorrow?
“It is a great achievement to get to another Munster final, more so when we had to beat Tipperary and Cork to get there. Now we have nothing won yet but that was a very difficult route to go.
“We scored 0-23 in the semi-final over Cork, our work-rate and our ability to deal with a very well prepared Cork team were the most pleasing aspects. Waterford have lost three of the last five Munster minor finals so they will be looking to rectify their position in Munster hurling.”
As will Limerick look to further strengths theirs. A changing graph indeed.