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'For these lads there's unfinished business and I think that's driving them on'

This year’s U21 decider will be a repeat of the 2014 minor final.

Pat Donnelly celebrates with Andrew La Touche Cosgrave Pat Donnelly celebrates Limerick's win with Andrew La Touche Cosgrave. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WHEN LIMERICK RUN out on Semple Stadium next month for the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling final, they will be renewing acquaintances with familiar foes.

Three years ago in the corresponding minor decider, Kilkenny saw off Limerick in the battle for All-Ireland glory.

When they cross paths on 9 September, Limerick aim to atone for that 2014 defeat.

“We have Kilkenny and for these lads there’s unfinished business and I think that’s driving them on, a repeat of the minor final three years ago,” says Limerick manager Pat Donnelly.

“Brian Ryan, Joe Quaid, big roles played in this team for the last number of years. It’s a credit to them that they’re still together.

“I’d say the bulk of that panel from underage is still there. We took it up this year and luckily we are here.

“We haven’t mentioned it with the panel of players up to now. The All-Ireland final is a long way off and even as close as we got, we didn’t mention it.

“But now we can talk about it for the next three weeks and try to get these lads ready for the final.

“There’ll be no need for motivational speeches, these lads know what’s ahead of them and they know the prize that is on offer and they know there’s a big team in their way.”

Cian Lynch celebrates Limerick forward Cian Lynch celebrates after the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Limerick will be bidding for a second All-Ireland crown at this grade in three years and Donnelly hopes their progress can be the springboard for bigger and better things achieved at senior level.

“Limerick hurling is on the up. I keep saying it. The senior team aren’t there yet, but they are getting there. Again I mentioned it prior to the game, minor finals, these lads have Munster medals at minor, U21, Fitzgibbon.

“They have all the medals that you want to see when you’re representing your senior team. I think if the academy and the structures keep going, I think it won’t be long before Limerick are competitive in the senior grade.”

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Limerick’s win in Saturday’s thrilling semi-final against Galway continues a campaign that has featured some major wins.

They have taken care of Tipperary, Clare, Cork and Galway with Kilkenny the final hurdle to surmount.

Their team was touted for success from a long way out but for all the talent of the players, it is trainer Mikey Kiely that Donnelly is keen to pay tribute to.

Kyle Hayes and Andrew La Touche Cosgrove celebrate a score Limerick's Kyle Hayes and Andrew La Touche Cosgrove celebrate a point. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“From the first night out, I’d say Mikey Kiely had it planned out for the year, he expected us to be there in the end of September.

“Look, I don’t like singling anyone out but he is the heartbeat behind this squad. As well as coaching and doing the strength and conditioning, he has a great appetite for it.

“He does things very professionally. His age profile isn’t far off the players so he knows what makes them tick.

“For me, I’d have to pick him out as a stand-out from what we’ve done so far.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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