Treaty star Hayes has sights set on big prize
Rising Limerick star Kyle Hayes is on the treatment table at the moment. Groin trouble means that the home league tie with Dublin on February 17 is probably when we'll see him back in action.
Last summer, he announced himself on the senior stage with 1-1 on his championship debut in the defeat to Clare. But an injury hampered the Kildimo/Pallaskenry man as the year progressed.
"I hurt my groin at the end of last summer and I played through it. It got a lot worse. I'm taking time out to get it right."
When he comes back he'll be hoping that Limerick will still be in the shake-up to finally return to hurling's top flight in the league. But Hayes reckons that, given what Galway achieved from Division 1B last year, the need to gain promotion isn't what it once was.
"It's really only to get matches under your belt for the championship. If you come in the top four, you still get into the quarter-finals anyway, get to play the top teams. As long as we get games, that's the main thing."
Still, there's no denying there's a sense of expectation around John Kiely's Limerick team. That comes with the territory when you win two All-Ireland U-21 titles in three seasons.
"It's going to increase (the expectation). You win two All-Irelands in three years and people are going to expect Liam MacCarthy. We know ourselves we have the talent there now. And we have experience.
"From the 2015 team, there's Gearóid Hegarty, Diarmuid Byrnes, Cian Lynch - they are all there. It's their third or fourth year on it so they're experienced guys. Hopefully we'll get over the line this year."
Hayes won't shy away from that expectation. Underage titles don't guarantee anything but he'll openly say they have the players to make a serious assault on an All-Ireland title.
"We try to block it out as much as we can. Obviously people... they want the Liam MacCarthy now, they haven't much patience. They're sick of not having won since the last one in '73."
"We have the players at the moment. A bit of luck and hopefully we'll get it. We don't think too much about what's outside the camp. It's inside, our own mentality. We all believe we can do it this year. Hopefully we can."
They will be forced to operate without their Na Piarsaigh contingent as they continue on their quest to secure another club All-Ireland title. But Hayes believes the county will only benefit in the long run.
"It's tough for them and for us. But any team that's successful for Limerick hurling, that's the main goal. I wish them all luck and hope they bring back another All-Ireland, that would be great for the county," he said as Electric Ireland launched their sponsorship of the Higher Education championships.
Hayes turns 20 in July but where he'll play is up for debate. He identifies centre-back as his preferred position but he has been used in the forwards too.
Still he insists he'd "play anywhere", and after the "daunting" experience of making his debut straight out of minor last year, he reckons he's more prepared for the rough and tumble of championship this time around.
"It was fairly daunting walking around in the parade for the first time. Once the ball is thrown in you forget about everything else."
And he believes having more championship games under the new system will benefit this young Treaty team.
"All you want is experience of the big days. It doesn't get much bigger than Munster Championship.
"Our first game, Tipp at home, we'll gain massive experience from that and hopefully drive on."
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