by Mal Keaveney
EARLY attendees at the Ennis Road Grounds on Sunday are set to enjoy what is likely to be an ultra-competitive Electric Ireland Munster Minor (under-17) Hurling Championship Final between Limerick and Clare. This is the first such meeting of the counties in a decider since way back in 1989, won by the Banner.
The contest has a mid-morning (11.30am) throw in.
Only a win over Tipperary in the concluding round of the group phase would have earned Limerick a shot at provincial glory, and that positive outcome was achieved in five star fashion.
Without a goal in their four previous outings, the Treaty Teenagers made up for lost chances with a hat-trick in Semple Stadium, Thurles.
Cathal O’Neill (Crecora/ Mainister), Adam O’Connor (Ballybrown) and 16 year-old Adam English of Doon all raised green flags a fortnight ago. O’Neill is easily the championship’s top scorer with a massive contribution of 1-35, but in fairness there has been a flow of scores upfront also from O’Connor, English, Diarmuid Hegarty (St. Patrick’s), Cian Casey (Ahane) and Effin’s Patrick O’Donovan.
A key area to Limerick’s positivity this season has been around the middle of the park through Patrick Reale (Knockainey) and Patrickswell’s Patrick Kirby, son of multiple All-Star Gary.
Captain Michael Keane (Adare) and fellow defender Colin Coughlan (Ballybrown) are serious injury concerns ahead of the weekend, but in Michael Cremin (Newcastle West) and Ahane’s Adam Murrihy there are a couple of fine replacements.
At number six, Newcastle West’s Ethan Hurley has shone through this Summer like a beacon.
Fergal Lynch’s Clare earned their final spot with an unexpected but deserved victory over hotpots Cork two weeks ago. The emerging stars for Clare in ’19 appear to be Diarmuid Cahill, Jarlath Collins, Cormac Murphy, Oisin O’Donnell and Connor Hegarty.
Limerick’s management team is headed up by Diarmuid Mullins, winner of two All-Ireland Minor football medals with his native Laois in the mid-1990s and a nephew of Dublin legend Brian Mullins; then John Meskell, Richie Flannery and Tommy Quaid, brother of senior goalkeeper Nickie.
A home win is very much on the cards, and with it the possibility of an eight success in Munster.