Sunday 25 February 2018

'It's a summer of shocks, so why not Limerick?' - Moran

Niall Moran. Photo: Sam Barnes / Sportsfile
Niall Moran. Photo: Sam Barnes / Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

It was a game meant to herald the dawn of a new era for Limerick hurling.

As the rain lashed down relentlessly, Limerick battered at Kilkenny's door in the closing stages of the 2014 All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final, but came up just two points short.

Limerick's resurgence through the back door, having lost out to Cork in the Munster final, left county board officials suitably impressed.

At their next meeting, just two days after the Kilkenny loss, it was announced that then manager TJ Ryan would be staying on for another three years.

Ryan lasted for two, as the team fell from that high-water mark.

Tipperary beat them well in the 2015 Munster semi-final, before Dublin bounced them out of the Qualifiers.


Last year it was Tipp again who ended their provincial ambitions, and Clare skittled them in a Thurles Qualifier.

That All-Ireland semi-final, nearly three years ago now, marked Niall Moran's last championship appearance in a Limerick shirt, after he'd come out of retirement earlier in the summer for one last hurrah.

Moran came on as a late sub to replace former captain Donal O'Grady, who retired early last year.

And Moran notes: "Both teams are in a very different place now.

"The reality of the situation, in Kilkenny's case, is that there's been a gradual transitioning of players, but maybe not to the extent that people think.

"They're still very strong, still in the top three in the country.

"The Wexford game didn't go according to plan, but while you might have a chance against Kilkenny in early June, as the year goes on they tend to get stronger.

"I'd be wary of writing an obituary for Kilkenny. I don't think it was balanced against Wexford, they maybe tried to accommodate the Wexford game-plan too much and that upset what they're good at.

"Limerick's situation for the last couple of years is that maybe the progress has stagnated.

"There's the potential for a bright new generation, but what concerns me going forward is the need to build it on an axis of four or five players and at the moment Limerick don't have a recognised crucifix at 6, 8, 9 and 11.

"I'm not sure they know who they have themselves there yet."

A quick glance at the Limerick team from the 2014 Kilkenny game, compared to the one that lined out in the recent loss to Clare, shows that while some things have changed, others have stayed the same.

Goalkeeper Nickie Quaid, Richie McCarthy, Seamus Hickey, Paul Browne, James Ryan, Declan Hannon, Shane Dowling and Graeme Mulcahy are players who started both matches, while the rest of the team is now comprised of the "bright new generation" that Moran refers to.

Limerick U-21 manager Pat Donnelly is working with seven of the players who saw game time in the Clare match.

Sean Finn, Cian Lynch, Peter Casey and Kyle Hayes all started against the Banner, while Barry Nash, Tom Morrissey and Aaron Gillane came off the bench to play a part.

Last week against Tipperary, in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U-21 championship, all of those players produced strong performances in an 11-point win.

In addition, Limerick senior panellists Colin Ryan and Ronan Lynch are also members of Donnelly's set-up. They might be young, but Donnelly insists that venturing into the Nowlan Park bear pit won't "faze" his young stars.

He said: "I don't think it will faze them. We'll see what Kilkenny are like, but if you were to analyse the championship and what's gone on this year, you wouldn't worry too much about Kilkenny, bar their tradition.

"If they go out and hurl Kilkenny as they are, and do what they're good at, they have a chance.

"But it is a big test, and the negative side is that they wouldn't have had that test against Kilkenny in the last few years.

"They haven't been meeting them in the league and so this is new to a lot of them. It's a whole new ball game, going down there.

"It's three years since we played them, but it's a great test."


"They'll be testing themselves against the best and it will be interesting to see how they stand up to it."

Moran is quietly confident and it's actually better, he suggests, to play the Cats at Nowlan Park.

"If they drew Kilkenny in Limerick, the nature of the Limerick person would be one of expectation because we have them at home, with more than a fighting chance," he says.

"However, Limerick people are going to Kilkenny thinking we don't have a chance.

"Often times with Limerick, that's when we're at our best.

"I don't harbour the negativity of some people in Limerick.

"You have to have a chance.

"It's a summer of shocks - so why not Limerick?"

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Irish Independent

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