Limerick will be hot favourites to beat Tipperary at Páirc na nGael on Thursday, April 10th when the sides meet in the opening round of the Electric Ireland Munster Minor Hurling Championship at 7pm.
Limerick, managed by Brian Ryan (selectors Eamonn Cregan & Stephen McDonagh and trained by Jerry Wallace), are the defending provincial champions and feature outstanding players in captain Cian Lynch and up-and-coming star Ronan Lynch.
Although Tipperary have won 37 Munster minor titles (Limerick six) a large degree of expectation surrounds the Shannonsiders on this occasion.
Indeed, given the fact that Limerick beat Tipperary (1-9 to 1-7) en route to winning the 2012 All-Ireland under-16 title the Treaty desperately hope this side can claim the Irish Press Cup for the first time since 1984.
“We know that an awful lot of work has been put into this Limerick team and not just this year, but for the last number of years,” Tipperary minor hurling manager Liam Cahill (Ballingarry) told the Tipperary Star this week.
“Those players have been getting a lot of attention since they were under-14 so you have to think that this team has the best chance of winning an All-Ireland for Limerick for many years,” added the Ballingarry man - Cahill is joined on the management team by Seán Corbett (Durlas Óg), TJ Ryan (Clonoulty-Rossmore) and John Sheedy (Portroe).
“The expectation levels amongst ourselves going down to Limerick is that we are going to go down to try to win the game obviously, but we know that we have a big task on our hands. Preparations have gone well and the lads are really looking forward to the challenge. We will come out all guns blazing and hopefully it will be good enough to get over the line on the day,” Liam Cahill added.
The winners of the clash on Thursday evening will qualify for a Munster semi-final on June 25th-26th against Cork or Kerry while the losers will play the losers of play-off game one on April 30th or May 7th.
“Collectively we haven’t really trained as much as we would have liked, but however well we perform next Thursday night we will know a lot more about the team and theplayers will, obviously, improve as well,” manager Liam Cahill explained.
“All I would say is that we are going to try and win the match, but whatever happens it won’t be the end of the world for this particular group of players.”
The structure of the Munster minor hurling championship was the subject of much debate in 2013. On that occasion William Maher’s team beat Waterford (2-18 to 1-15) in the opening round before losing to Limerick (0-17 to 1-17) in a Munster semi-final. The Waterford team re-grouped and qualified for the Munster final against Limerick which the Déise lost after a replay. Waterford, who had been beaten by Tipperary, progressed to win the All-Ireland title despite losing two games.
“There is nothing like competitive championship hurling for us as a management team to figure out what our best fifteen is or our best twenty,” Liam Cahill explained.
“What we have seen over the last number of months we are very, very happy with. We have the best panel assembled that is available to play minor hurling for Tipperary. We have no worries in that department. We have a couple of guys carrying injuries, but nothing major. We are happy enough with the way that things have gone,” Cahill added.
Irrespective of what happens on Thursday in Limerick Liam Cahill is delighted to be involved with this group of Tipperary minors, a group he is eager to help develop into inter-county players of note.
“That’s it, exactly,” Ballingarry’s Liam Cahill said.
“The bottom line is that any time you get to manage your county in particular it is a massive honour. You are also getting a chance to develop the best players. Those players are obviously getting great coaching in their clubs, but it is extra special to come in and help prepare hurlers - to help them get that little bit sharper and make them that little bit more aware of what’s required to play inter-county hurling. These guys will all make mistakes and they will make a lot of them over their career, but the thing is how you react to those mistakes,” Liam Cahill explained.
“I am very confident that these guys will go and express themselves thoroughly. In doing that there will be a lot of mistakes made, but we are prepared for that and we are going to suck up whatever comes at us. We are ready to give a really, really good performance and hopefully that performance will be good enough. If it’s not we will shake ourselves off, dust ourselves down and come again through the back door if we have to. We have no problem in that department. These lads have given 110%; they are a really honest bunch of lads who have prepared really well and they have done exceptionally work to get themselves into a position to play on Thursday.”
The Tipperary minor team is captained by Brian Hogan (Lorrha-Dorrha) and will line out on Thursday evening as follows: Brian Hogan (Lorrha-Dorrha); Chris McCullagh (Moycarkey-Borris), Jack Skehan (Holycross-Ballycahill), Darragh Peters (Kilruane MacDonagh’s); Billy McCarthy (Thurles Sarsfields), Paul Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), Conor Ryan (Nenagh Éire Óg); Andrew Coffey (Nenagh Éire Óg), Willie Connors (Kildangan); Alan Tynan (Roscrea), Willie Coffey (Toomevara), Shane Hennessy (Nenagh Éire Óg); Tommy Nolan (Drom & Inch), Stephen Quirke (Moyle Rovers), Paul Ryan (Toomevara). Subs: Gavin Ryan (Upperchurch-Drombane), Cian Darcy (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Liam Fahey (Rockwell Rovers), Conor Floyd (Newport), Bill O’Connell (Loughmore-Castleiney), Gavin O’Halloran (Carrick Swan), Ross Peters (St. Mary’s Clonmel), Pa Ryan (Newport), Ronan Teehan (Gortnahoe-Glengoole), Robert Holohan (Newport), Enda Heffernan (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Michael Dunne (Mullinahone), Robbie Long (Drom & Inch), Brian McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Shane Neville (Lattin-Cullen), Kevin Ahearne (Drom & Inch), Liam McCutcheon (Templederry).