Lim­er­ick hope win can lay foun­da­tions for se­nior suc­cess

Don­nelly says play­ers will keep feet on the ground af­ter vic­tory

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Gaelic Games - DE­CLAN ROONEY at Sem­ple Sta­dium

It’s 19 years since Kilkenny last went con­sec­u­tive sea­sons with­out win­ning ei­ther the se­nior, mi­nor or un­der-21 All-Ire­land ti­tles, but af­ter a chas­ten­ing de­feat to Lim­er­ick in Satur­day’s All-Ire­land un­der-21 fi­nal Ed­die Bren­nan still be­lieves his side can help the record win­ners back to the top again.

There was no deny­ing Lim­er­ick their sweet re­venge fol­low­ing de­feat in the cor­re­spond­ing mi­nor fi­nal three years ago, but the power, poise and skill dis­played by the Mun­ster men hinted at a big gulf be­tween the sides.

On their way to the fi­nal Pat Don­nelly’s side ac­counted for Tip­per­ary, Clare, Cork and Gal­way, while Kilkenny’s five-point win over Dublin in the Le­in­ster quar­ter-fi­nal was the tough­est test they face.

Bench­mark

But Bren­nan is pleased that a first Le­in­ster ti­tle since 2012 means progress for his side, and that the fu­ture is not as bleak for his se­nior col­leagues as might be sug­gested.

“It’s prob­a­bly be­cause of the bench­mark and the level the Kilkenny se­niors have set over the last 10 or 12 years, and I’m con­scious of say­ing that in a team that I played in. It’s not an ego thing. It’s just that was the bench­mark that was set,” said Bren­nan. Ev­ery team was chas­ing you down for years and years. Now it’s just a case of a lot of teams lev­el­ling off, be­ing around the one level.

“I don’t think Gal­way are that far ahead of ev­ery­one else ei­ther. They were the team to beat this year. They were strong. Very, very good all year around. But a lot of peo­ple prob­a­bly felt Water­ford didn’t play to their po­ten­tial.

“It’s ex­cit­ing in a way for 2018. It can’t come quick enough. Like ev­ery­body else, Kilkenny are back to the draw­ing board. Work again.

“A lot of them guys out there who played for me are good enough. They may not have showed it to­day but it’s char­ac­ter build­ing, it’s a test of their re­silience, a test of what’s be­tween their ears and what do they want.”

But for­get about Kilkenny’s woes; this was Lim­er­ick’s day. The thou­sands of green shirted sup­port­ers that poured on to Sem­ple Sta­dium af­ter the full-time whis­tle showed what a sixth ti­tle meant to the county, but the stylish, power hurl­ing that they pro­duced shows they are do­ing some­thing right on Shan­non­side.

On Satur­day Lim­er­ick used the strong wind to their ad­van­tage in the first-half and built up a seven-point lead, while they kept pace with Bren­nan’s side af­ter the restart and never looked threat­ened.

Once again Aaron Gil­lane was their score in chief with seven points, five of which came from play, while Kyle Hayes mopped up at the back, Rob­bie Han­ley was a colos­sus in midfield and Peter Casey caused huge trou­ble up front.

Spir­ited come­back

In the end the lead built up by the 16th minute when Lim­er­ick were 0-7 to 0-1 ahead was the dif­fer­ence, but Kilkenny’s in­abil­ity to turn up the pres­sure on the win­ners straight af­ter half-time ul­ti­mately saw their spir­ited come­back fall well short.

The foun­da­tion is there. These are lads that will play with con­fi­dence

Lim­er­ick’s man­ager, Don­nelly, says the foun­da­tions have now been laid for his county to launch a crack at se­nior All-Ire­land glory as they seek a first ti­tle there since 1973, but that there is no guar­an­tee their re­cent un­der­age suc­cess will trans­fer over to the top level. But he is cog­nisant of the fact Lim­er­ick have to play a long term game.

“If you go back over the years and look at the player profiles on All-Ire­land se­nior fi­nal day, they all have mi­nor, un­der-21 and Fitzgib­bon medals. All our lads have them now so there is no rea­son why Lim­er­ick can’t go on and be suc­cess­ful at se­nior level,” said Don­nelly. “The foun­da­tion is there. These are lads that will play with con­fi­dence. Mind­ing them for the next cou­ple of years is the big thing. We won un­der-21s be­fore in the early noughties. The lessons have been learned from then. These lads will keep their feet on the ground.

“It is never go­ing to hap­pen overnight. Peo­ple got in­volved in the Lim­er­ick un­der­age academy seven years ago, they didn’t ex­pect it to hap­pen overnight. They were look­ing very, very far ahead.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: SPORTS­FILE

Lim­er­ick’s Cian Lynch goes past Kilkenny’s Conor De­laney (left), and Huw Lawlor on Satur­day.

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