Despite not earning a senior All-Ireland tittle in the last 44 years, Limerick U-21 captain Kyle Hayes says that recent underage success doesn’t add pressure to the current panel.
Limerick have won two U-21 titles in the last three years and promotion from Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League has seen fans’ expectations rise with the Munster Hurling Championship just around the corner.
First up, however is the Bord Gais U-21 clash with Clare this coming Bank Holiday on Monday at Cusack Park in Ennis.
Hayes was only 18 when he made his senior championship debut last summer against Clare and while he appreciates the two most recent U-21 victories will fuel expectation, it’s not something which is weighing down the players.
“It’s constantly adding to it but as players you don’t listen to outside influences or anything like that, you get on with your own game. We work as best we can and when we get out on the pitch we express ourselves as best we can and see where that takes us.
“I was part of the only crop of (recent) Limerick minors not to win something but it was very nice to win the U-21 All-Ireland, to finish the year on a winning note,” said Hayes, who was speaking at the launch of this year’s Bord Gais U-21 Hurling Championship.
“There’s an academy there — Cian Lynch’s age group was the very start of it — but it’s really about hard work being put in, it’s all done in a professional manner, so there’s not much of a change from senior to U21 to underage, from 14 up it’s all regulated and planned out.
“You’re prepared from the age of 14 to play senior, obviously the training schedules and so on change, but basically it’s what you do the whole time.”
“There are seven of us on the senior team from the U-21s, but the managers communicate and that’s a big chunk. Pat Donnelly is over the U-21s and he and John (Kiely) are constantly talking over what time is needed for training and so on.”
The Kildimo-Pallaskenry clubman knows there will be a huge crowd at that game and it will be new ground for him as it will be the first time he goes out to defend a title as champions.
“I’ve never experienced this feeling, but we’re champions as it stands and we’ll do everything we can to defend the title.
“All teams are going to be gunning to take the champions down, but we’ll welcome all challenges, we’re confident in ourselves,” he added.