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Where does Limerick hurling stand after last night's Munster U21 success?

Last night’s victory over Clare was a massive boost for the county.

Limerick are celebrating Munster U21 hurling glory.
Limerick are celebrating Munster U21 hurling glory.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

LIMERICK HURLING FANS are smiling again this morning following last night’s stunning Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21 final victory over Clare.

Following recent championship exits for the minor and senior teams, the exploits of the U21s have provided Limerick with a badly-needed shot in the arm.

But it doesn’t get any easier for the Shannonsiders as they will face a Galway side boasting the likes of Cathal Mannion, Conor Whelan and Jason Flynn in the All-Ireland semi-final on 22 August.

Limerick last captured the Munster U21 crown in 2011 following an epic extra-time victory over Cork at the Gaelic Grounds but in the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway, they lost out to a Niall Burke inspired Galway outfit.

Limerick need to smash through that semi-final barrier this time and set up a final meeting with Wexford or Antrim on September 12.

Nothing less will be deemed good enough for an expectant Limerick public who woke this morning with renewed hope in their hearts.

The progress of the senior team may have stalled this year and the minor crop wasn’t deemed as strong as in previous years.

But the U21s have ensured that Limerick will be hurling into August at intercounty level and the performance of Ronan Lynch in the Cusack Park cauldron was notable.

Ronan Lynch Ronan Lynch was superb for Limerick last night. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Lynch completed his Leaving Certificate exams this summer and is tipped for big things in a Limerick senior shirt in the years to come.

The Na Piarsaigh star has already made waves in the underage ranks and will certainly step up to the senior squad on a full-time basis next year.

On The42 yesterday morning, we published a preview piece describing Cian Lynch as ‘the boy wonder.’

It was a statement that generated plenty of feedback and debate and while Lynch did make a serious impact on his senior championship debut against Clare, it is acknowledged that the Patrickswell dynamo still has a road to travel.

Ben O'Gorman and Cian Lynch Cian Lynch will benefit hugely from his debut season at senior level. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

For Limerick’s remaining games against Tipperary, Westmeath and Dublin in the senior championship, he found himself a marked man and while his efforts weren’t rewarded on the scoreboard, he still kept on working hard and trying to create openings for his teammates.

Having seen enough of Lynch in the minor and U21 ranks, we stand by our assertion that he is indeed a ‘boy wonder’ and a player that Limerick will pin their hopes on as they, once again, seek to follow underage success with senior glory.

His selflessness, skill and dedication to the Limerick cause cannot be called into question and with a big year of U21 and senior fare under his belt, Lynch will be all the better for it in 2016.

Diarmaid Byrnes and Richie English were two other players to catch the eye against Clare in defensive roles.

Richie English Richie English can make the step up to the senior grade. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

English and Byrnes also featured for the Limerick intermediates in their Munster championship campaign this summer, when the Treaty men reached the provincial decider.

Byrnes started against Cork, with English and Ronan Lynch brought on as subs, while Barry O’Connell, Darragh O’Donovan and Tom Morrissey (also a senior panellist) were other starters in the intermediate decider.

Kevin O’Brien lined out too but was ruled out through injury for the U21 final with Clare.

His replacement on Thursday evening, Colin Ryan, came on as sub for O’Donovan in the final minute of the intermediate showpiece.

There has been a healthy crossover between the U21 and intermediate panels throughout the season and the conveyor belt is rolling out some promising young talent for senior boss TJ Ryan to consider next year.

TJ Ryan TJ Ryan will look to infuse his senior squad with fresh talent. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

And so while Ryan’s seniors didn’t achieve what they would have wanted to in 2015, there’s nothing to suggest that they won’t re-emerge as a genuine force next year.

Promotion from Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling must be achieved as they will begin their sixth season outside of the top flight.

Ryan will aim for Division 1A hurling for the county in 2017 while also attempting to blood some new talent along the way.

But for now, the storm clouds that engulfed the county in recent weeks have lifted somewhat and Limerick hurling fans are looking forward, and not back, once again.

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