Saturday 21 October 2017

Limerick in a good place but youngsters need time - Donnelly

Limerick senior boss John Kiely. Photo: Sportsfile
Limerick senior boss John Kiely. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

If they pull this off, no one can say they didn't deserve it.

Beat Kilkenny in tomorrow's Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U-21 HC final and Limerick will have beaten hurling's 'big three' as well Clare and Galway on their way to a second national title in this grade in three years.

Throw in a couple of minor final appearances and the county's success in the maiden Munster U-25 competition and there are reasons to be cheerful in the Treaty county.

U-21 manager Pat Donnelly isn't hiding from the fact that it all looks promising for the Shannonsiders and he believes they could be in a position to make a breakthrough at senior level in a few years.

"I said a few years ago, 2020," Donnelly replied when asked when Limerick's success could be translated on to the senior stage.

"This is the best opportunity, these lads have been there since U-14, they are very disciplined, they do all of the right things and if they stay together and stick with it, which they have done.

"I know minors is a crossroads in fellas' lives, but these fellas have gone beyond that.

"I think there is a hunger there to do well, I think there is a structure within Limerick. It is getting better year on year.

"Fingers crossed we will be knocking on the door. Waterford have been there this year (in the senior final), Limerick at this age group were competitive with them all up along, probably even better than them. So there is no reason why they can't."

And while he's optimistic, Donnelly also sounds a note of caution. Limerick have brilliant young talent but nothing can be taken for granted.

Anthony Daly recently stepped down from his role with the academy and will have to be replaced. And Donnelly agrees with senior boss John Kiely who warned that their youngsters will need time.

"People see they are underage now and they are looking beyond the 21s. They are hoping that they will do well and perform for Limerick.

"Hopefully that will translate into the senior team. John is right, it is going to take time. You are going to have to have patience because these lads, the bulk of them, are very, very young.

"You'd always need a few senior lads to stay with them to bring them on. Limerick have Declan Hannon, Shane Dowling, and a few more like Richie McCarthy.

"They are the lads these lads look up to, you'll never win - they were the famous last words about Manchester United, you won't win anything with kids - but you probably do need a few extra senior lads as well."

Kilkenny in an All-Ireland final represents a serious test but the numbers look good for Limerick. Nine of his squad were with the seniors, meaning his side are very experienced for an U-21 side. And he is hopeful that will stand to them when the ball is thrown in at Semple Stadium tomorrow (3.0).

"The more you do something the easier it should come, but it is all on the day," Donnelly said.

"It's whoever shows up on the day and hopefully our lads will. I would be confident that they will.

"A good performance is all you want, if you are good enough you are good enough if you're beaten by a better team you have to accept it.

"We are confident, but it is a 50-50 game, that is all."

Irish Independent

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