The academy focuses on the development and education of young hurlers more so than breeding a ‘win at all costs’ mentality and Donnelly, having served at the coalface of the academy over the past four years, is in no doubt that Limerick hurling is stronger for its existence.
“The academy is working and the proof is in the eating, this will be our fourth Munster minor final in-a-row (a feat never before achieved), while the U21s won an All-Ireland last year,” the Limerick manager asserted.
“It takes a lot of work and effort and there are a lot of great lads working behind the scenes to make sure it functions. I was one of those lads for four years. I was involved with this group from U14 up to U17. There is good continuity as a result. You are not guaranteed you are going to be minor manager, but we worked well up to U17 and then I was asked to take the minor position. I enjoyed every minute of my time in the academy. It makes the players disciplined. It has a bigger effect than just shaping them as hurlers. It makes fine lads out of them.
“The organisation of the academy is the cornerstone of its success. Joe McKenna, Liam Hayes and Eibhear O’Dea were involved at the start and they have really driven it on. They think as much about the U14s as they do the U17s or minors.
Limerick will be without the injured Mark O’Dwyer (stress fracture) and William O’Meara (ACL) tomorrow, the latter is one of six surviving players from the 2015 panel which came up short to Tipperary in the provincial decider – Darragh Carroll, Brian Ryan, Kyle Hayes, Conor Boylan and Ciaran O’Connor the remaining five.
“We were delighted with our battling victory over Waterford and then we went down to Páirc Uí Rinn the evening after to see the other semi. Tipp blew Cork away in the second-half. We played them in the final last year, a game I felt we could have snatched.
“We got a goal chance early and we didn’t take it. We were unlucky in the finish. They are a good side and I imagine they think the same of us. There will be no one taking anything for granted on Sunday.”