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6 players to watch as Limerick and Cork battle it out for Munster U21 hurling glory

The counties will lock horns at the Gaelic Grounds on Wednesday evening.

HAVING CLAIMED VICTORIES in the U17, minor and senior Munster grades, Cork hope to complete a provincial clean sweep tomorrow evening when they meet Limerick in the Bord Gáis Energy U21 decider at the Gaelic Grounds.

But the Rebels will start as underdogs against a formidable Limerick outfit, as the Shannonsiders look to claim an eighth title in this grade – and their second in three seasons.

Cork are looking to bridge a ten-year gap back to their last success, and victory would secure a 19th crown, to move them just one behind Tipperary on the all-time roll of honour.

There’s plenty at stake ahead of the first Munster U21 decider between the counties since 2011, when Limerick won an epic fixture after extra-time.

Here, we take a look at six players who’ll have a big say in the destination of this year’s silverware….

1. Declan Dalton (Cork)

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Cork’s keeper turned poacher will have a big say in Wednesday’s fixture, after he posted a remarkable individual tally of 1-12 in the semi-final victory over Waterford.

Dalton’s haul included that late penalty goal, eight pointed frees and two sideline cuts.

Two years ago, Dalton stopped a penalty from his opposite number and Limerick goalkeeper Eoghan McNamara, but couldn’t prevent Cork from bowing out of the minor championship. 

Now a vital member of the U21 side, Dalton has made the transition to the forward line, and a senior breakthrough could follow in the not too distant future for the Fr O’Neill’s player.

Dalton was a member of Cork’s winter training panel and if he continues his current rate of progress, he’ll be making a more permanent step up soon.

2. Aaron Gillane (Limerick)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Gillane was one of the stars of Mary Immaculate College’s successful Fitzgibbon Cup defence this year, as he registered a string of big tallies.

The Patrickswell star’s form earned him a recall to John Kiely’s senior panel, after he was let go earlier in the year.

Gillane was excellent last year as Patrickswell ended a 13-year wait for Limerick senior honours and he’s been tearing it up in the 2017 Bord Gáis Energy U21 championship.

Having made his senior championship debut against Clare in Munster, Gillane registered 0-9 as Limerick saw off Tipperary in the U21 grade, before landing 0-14 in the semi-final victory over Clare. 

Gillane is deadly accurate from placed balls and Cork can’t afford to give too much frees away within scoring range.

3. Shane Kingston (Cork)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kingston was hauled off in the semi-final victory over Waterford and will be anxious to atone with a big performance at the Gaelic Grounds.

Kingston made his senior championship debut last summer but this has been a breakthrough season for the Douglas player.

He scored 1-4 on his full senior championship debut against Tipperary in May, was held scoreless in the Waterford win, and chipped in with a point in the Munster final victory over Clare.

Son of senior boss Kieran, Shane has bounced back from serious injury to make his mark with the Rebels – and there’s plenty more to come from this exciting young talent.

A massive August and September could yet lie in store for Kingston, in the U21 and senior grades.

4. Sean Finn (Limerick)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The Limerick seniors may have bowed out of the All-Ireland championship at an early juncture but it was a positive campaign for Sean Finn.

The Bruff clubman is a 2015 Munster and All-Ireland U21 winner but he suffered an injury setback last year, tearing his cruciate and missing the remainder of the 2016 campaign.

Finn worked diligently on his recovery and now looks set for a long and distinguished career.

He’s a corner back in the traditional mould, fearless and tight-marking, and Finn won Munster minor titles with Limerick in 2013 and 2014.

Victory over Cork would provide him with a second provincial U21 medal, to match his minor haul.

5. Mark Coleman (Cork)

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Coleman is one of the big stars of the 2017 senior championship, and Cork need a big Munster U21 final from him if they’re to upset the odds against a highly-rated Limerick outfit.

Coleman, from Blarney, served notice of his intentions by becoming an ever-present during the Allianz League campaign, before making his full senior championship debut against Tipp.

Coleman won’t be 20 until December but his game intelligence belies his years and he’s a leading contender for the Young Hurler of the Year award.

He’s a smart player and a terrific distributor of the ball from wing-back, with his diagonal deliveries from left to right a key feature of Cork’s play.

Coleman also has the nimble footwork to dance past opponents and out of trouble, and he also possesses a scoring touch from play and sideline cuts.

6. Cian Lynch (Limerick)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Limerick are blessed with attacking talent in their U21 set-up and Cian Lynch is anxious to bow out of this grade with another All-Ireland medal.

A 2015 winner, Lynch burst onto the senior stage with a superb display against Clare on his championship debut two years ago.

The Patrickswell player’s progress has stalled somewhat since then but he’s a senior figure on the Limerick U21 team and playing as such.

Lynch has been quietly impressive in two games to date, against Tipperary and Clare, and will look to deliver a big display on home soil against Cork.

In a star-studded forward division, the onus isn’t on Lynch to deliver all by himself, and he seems happier to be a cog in an impressive wheel.

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