2020 vision: Senior success the next step for Limerick

Limerick U21 hurling boss Pat Donnelly believes the county should be in a position to challenge for a senior All- Ireland by 2020.

2020 vision: Senior success the next step for Limerick

Many of Donnelly’s rising stars will bid tomorrow for a second Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 win in three seasons. The county has also contested All-Ireland minor finals in 2014 and 2016.

It’s the payoff for the academy structures that were set up by visionary Limerick officials inside the last decade.

U21 stars, such as Cian Lynch, Kyle Hayes and Barry Nash, are already established seniors and Donnelly reckons they can push for senior silverware inside three years.

“I said it three or four years ago that I thought it would be 2020 when that happens,” said Donnelly.

“This is probably the best opportunity. These lads have been there together since U14 level. They’re very disciplined and do all the right things and, if they stick with it, which they have done, they have a great chance.

"We all know that minor level is a crossroads in young lads’ lives, but these fellas have gone beyond that. There’s a hunger to do well, there’s a structure within Limerick and it’s getting better year on year, so, fingers crossed that in the next couple of years Limerick will be knocking on the door.”

Waterford won All-Ireland minor and U21 titles in 2013 and 2016 and several of those players competed in last weekend’s senior final.

Donnelly says it’s an obvious template for Limerick’s rising stars to follow.

“Waterford have been there this year at senior level and Limerick have been competitive with them all throughout the underage competitions with this group of players, and probably were better than them,” he said.

“Waterford have shown the way, but I do think, at underage, Limerick has passed them out, so there should be no reason why these lads cannot bring it onto the senior level.”

A whopping nine of Donnelly’s players were part of the Limerick senior panel this year, many of them key performers. They had a terrible summer and lost both their championship matches, to Clare and Kilkenny, but it wasn’t all negative.

“It was a help for us this year that Limerick were beaten by Kilkenny,” explained Donnelly. “It was unfortunate for the seniors, but for us it was definitely beneficial.”

Donnelly said their ultimate target is senior domination, regardless of what happens in Thurles tomorrow.

“These lads have a goal in life: To win a senior All- Ireland. They have beaten Tipperary, Clare, Cork and Galway in this year’s U21 championship and that is huge, so the icing on the cake would be to win the All- Ireland but it is not the end of the world if we don’t.”

Kilkenny team to face Limerick:

D Brennan (St Lachtains), M Cody (Dunnamaggin) C Delaney (Erin’s Own), N Mc Mahon (Erin’s Own), H Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels), J Cleer (Bennettsbridge), T Walsh (Tullaroan), L Scanlon (James Stephens), R Leahy (Rower Inistioge), J Walsh (Mullinavat), J Donnelly (Thomastown), S Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), S Walsh (Tullaroan), L Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge), B Ryan (Graigue Ballycallan).

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