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Young guns trying to pen 'a new narrative for Limerick hurling'

IN 2012, Limerick hurlers reached an All-Ireland quarter-final - and lost to Kilkenny. In 2013, they reached the All-Ireland semis via the front door - and lost to Clare.

Now it's 2014 and they're back at the last-four fence. For the team to maintain its rate of progression, as outlined above, the obvious next step is qualification for an All-Ireland final.

Only one teeny-weeny problem. Kilkenny.

But this is an ambitious group and just because the most successful team in history is blocking the path to September, selector Paul Beary doesn't shirk the question that Limerick now need to reach a final, the county's first since their flash-in-a-pan appearance in 2007.

"Yeah, definitely," he concurs. "I think this team is trying to write a new narrative for Limerick hurling."

Giddy

Beary wasn't involved when John Allen's outfit came to Croke Park last August, their fans giddy with optimism on foot of a first Munster title in 17 years.

Their heroes crashed and burned on the day; even the seven-point margin of defeat to Clare didn't tell the full story of Limerick's collective malfunction.

Beary - who would help Na Piarsaigh achieve county title and provincial club success by year's end - was also a spectator. He's not entirely convinced that this Sunday's semi-final can be packaged purely as a chance for atonement.

"Myself looking in at that, you have to give credit to Clare for their performance," he maintains. "Clare went with great intent in that semi-final last year.

"But yeah, I'd say the players - if you were to talk to them - that has been a big motivating factor. As a management team, all we've done is sought their feedback from that day and from that occasion, as to what we can do differently."

Limerick's trouble, that day, was encapsulated by the freetaking nightmare endured by their Munster hero, Declan Hannon.

Precocious

This precocious talent also struggled in this year's Munster final defeat to Cork but, given a more central brief, returned to something like his best form against Wexford in the All-Ireland quarter-final ten days ago.

"The amount of practice time he puts in, we've fantastic faith in him," Beary declares. "He is very young. It's remarkable to think how young these guys are. Shane Dowling is still only 21. When I was involved in Na Piarsaigh in 2011, he was only 18 and had just done the Leaving Cert."

Mention of Na Piarsaigh calls to mind last year's Munster club final and some clear parallels with Limerick's first half demolition job on a Wexford team that had stormed through the qualifiers only to hit a wall, playing for the fourth weekend running.

"That reminded me a lot personally of the Na Piarsaigh Munster club final," says Beary. "Sixmilebridge had to play five or six weeks in a row because of the success of Clare. They'd a great win over Midleton in Cork and were on a bit of a high. They won the home toss. But that fatigue element does catch up on you."

Sauntered

Na Piarsaigh duly sauntered home by 4-14 to 0-8, having led by 1-8 to 0-5 at the break. Limerick's rout of Wexford was even more emphatic: they were 3-15 to 0-8 clear at the interval while the full-time audit read 4-26 to 1-11.

A case of going for the jugular against weary legs?

"It was in my head, to be honest with you," says Beary. "I saw certain parallels there going into it. But the critical part from our perspective, and it's something we focussed on a lot since the Munster final ... we got off to a good start but maybe we wanted more of the killer instinct. I think we showed that to good measure.

"The interplay is getting better, the movement is getting better. There's a fantastic blend of youth and experience in the forward division," he adds.

Now all that remains is to show it on Sunday and keep the narrative going.


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