ON A high after a first Munster title in 29 years, Limerick’s minor hurlers have one more significant obstacle to overcome if they are to make it to a first All-Ireland final since 2005.
Galway lie in wait for Brian Ryan’s youngsters at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon and, in contrast to Limerick’s hard-fought provincial success, the Tribesmen have only played one game to make it to this stage, beating Laois in the All-Ireland quarter-finals three weeks ago.
Limerick minor selector Eamonn Cregan admits that Mattie Murphy’s team remains something of an unknown quantity, although he is hoping to pounce on any complacency Galway might have.
Cregan said: “We played Galway in a challenge match about six weeks ago and we can’t be sure what kind of a team Mattie brought down. He’s exceptionally good at covering up what kind of a team he has. He knows all the other teams but we don’t know anything about him. We have a little bit of an idea about certain players but, apart from that, that’s all we know.
“Galway know that they have a good side. I don’t think they actually believe that Limerick can beat them, but they’re basically looking forward to Waterford in the final.”
Waterford await the winners of Sunday’s game in the All-Ireland final and the Shannonsiders know all about them, having needed a replay to overcome the Deise in the Munster decider. Cregan believes that the extra game will stand to Limerick, adding that the players have had to quickly put their landmark Munster success to one side.
He is also mindful of the psychological effect that a debut appearance in Croke Park can have for players, but the Limerick management is trying not to make that an issue.
“[The Munster replay] certainly will be of benefit to us because, as each game goes on, you learn new things of the players. They had to put it behind them pretty quickly because they were back into club matches two weekends ago and it brought them back down to the ground pretty fast. Having won a Munster final like that, the players can be a bit high and it takes a while to get them down to the ground.
“Going into Croke Park and playing up there is another experience that the lads have never had. They’ve all played at certain levels of hurling but Croke Park is a different ball game altogether. The pitch is different, the bounce of the ball is different and you’re playing in a kind of bowl. You would think that the goals are close to you and they’re further away. They’re the normal distance away but you think because of the bowl situation that they’re closer. This is where Galway are going to benefit because they have been there before.
“We’ll try to prepare them for that. This is one of the things that management are doing, to prepare the players for it and try to get them ready so that when they go out on the field, they don’t care about the crowd. They just concentrate on the game and go from there.”