Limerick attacker Peter Casey believes that the knockout format and the prevalence of traditional 15-man systems are among the main reasons that the U21 hurling grade continues to excite supporters.
Na Piarsaigh clubman Casey has been on the scoresheet as the Shannonsiders have seen off Tipperary and Clare by 11 and 13 points, respectively, to reach tomorrow’s Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21HC final against Cork. While Limerick went in as favourites each time — and do so too against the Rebels in the Gaelic Grounds (7.30pm) — the lack of a safety net has meant that there has been no room for complacency.
“I think that’s what makes it so unique,” said Casey. “It’s knockout and that’s what makes it so entertaining for the people watching. For us playing, there are no sweepers and management probably don’t have too much time with the players, so there’s no real chance to implement systems, you just go out and express yourself.
“I’m sure the two teams will be going at it hammer and tongs. If you looked at the game yesterday [Waterford v Wexford], anyone in a full-forward line would have hated it. From that point of view, you love it when it’s one-on-one and I’m sure the backs love it as well.”
The corner-forward is one of 11 from the Limerick side which reached the 2014 All-Ireland minor final, losing to Kilkenny. A desire to go a step further at U21 level is the long-term motivation, but it hasn’t overshadowed immediate priorities.
“We’d have been very disappointed losing to Kilkenny in Croke Park, but we knew that we had a strong team this year and that we’d be able to give it a right crack. The management have been very good in ensuring that it genuinely has been one game at a time, Tipperary, Clare and now Cork.”
He was one of five of the current U21 panel who featured as the Cats ended Limerick’s senior progress this month.
While disappointing, the fact there is a large contingent of the senior panel hurling on together through the summer is a silver lining.
“From a senior point of view, it didn’t go as well as we would have liked,” said Casey.
“We had two games, losing to Clare and Kilkenny, but we’re a young team and I’ve no doubt we’ll come back stronger next year.
“There are eight or nine lads involved in the senior and U21 grades so it’s great to have a balance between them. To be fair to the two managers, they’ve managed it very well and there was nobody in danger of being burnt out. From that point of view, it’s been all positive.”
If they are to claim a second provincial title in three years, Limerick will have done so without having to leave the Ennis Road, having beaten Tipp and Clare at the Gaelic Grounds, too. That, and being favourites, adds pressure and Casey feels the feelgood factor in Cork hurling will mean a strong visiting contingent, too.
“We were favourites in both, but we’ve handled that tag pretty well, so far,” he said.
“We played Cork in the semi-final of Munster in 2014 and then last year in the U21s, as well. Playing at home is a help. I’m sure Cork would love if they were at home, too, but Cork hurling is really on the up. There’ll be a huge Cork crowd there, I’m sure, especially when they are going for the Munster treble.”
Bonus PaperTalk: Peter McNamara talks to Cork U21 hurling coach John Meyler ahead of Wednesday's Munster final with Limerick.
John discusses his emotional reaction to semi-final victory over Waterford, Cork hurling's renaissance, his love of coaching, sweeper systems and tactics and much more.
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