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5 talking points ahead of Limerick and Wexford's All-Ireland U21 hurling final

One county’s long All-Ireland famine is set to end at Semple Stadium.

1. Which famine will end?

It’s remarkable to think that Wexford haven’t won an All-Ireland title since 1996, when the seniors were famously successful under Liam Griffin.

It’s an even longer gap back to major glory in the underage ranks, as Wexford’s last minor success was achieved back in 1968.

The one and only All-Ireland U21 crown was annexed 50 years ago and there would be a lovely symmetry there for the Slaneysiders if they could pull it off.

Peter Lawlor 15/9/2002 DIGITAL Limerick's Peter Lawlor lifts the Cross of Cashel Cup in 2002. Source: INPHO

These are two counties badly in need of a lift and a Limerick win would end their All-Ireland drought that stretches back to the last U21 title in 2002.

The county’s minors did contest a final last year but lost to Kilkenny, while Wexford’s U21s are in a second successive U21 decider.

2. Can Wexford take the final step?

The Model County have improved incrementally over the past three seasons in the All-Ireland series, on the back of a hat-trick of Leinster titles.

They were shocked by Antrim in the semi-final two years ago but hit back to reach last year’s final, losing by six points against star-studded Clare.

Wexford boss JJ Doyle has admitted that it’s about time his players finished the job and they have a big chance against Limerick.

Eoin Conroy dejected at the end of the game Wexford's Eoin Conroy is dejected after last year's defeat to Clare. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A win would give the county a major boost ahead of what is a pivotal 2016 season at senior level.

Conor McDonald is Wexford’s standout player but it’s been very much a team effort from Doyle’s charges this summer.

3. Will Limerick boss John Kiely gain revenge?

Kiely doesn’t have fond memories of the last time he came across Wexford in an All-Ireland final.

The county’s U21 manager was a member of the Limerick panel when they were defeated by the Slaneysiders in the 1996 senior decider.

But almost two decades on from that heartbreaking setback, Kiely has the chance to exact sweet revenge at Semple Stadium on Saturday.

Source: © Tom HonanINPHO

A former member of the intermediate set-up, Kiely served as selector alongside John Allen when Limerick won the Munster SHC final in 2013.

He was touted as a potential successor to Allen but the time wasn’t right as Kiely was principal of Abbey CBS, a school with 450 students and 50 teachers.

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We might yet see the Garryspillane man don the senior ‘Bainisteoir’ bib at some point in the future, however.

4. Will Limerick’s defence hold up again?

Limerick’s brilliant goalkeeper David McCarthy and his back six have been solid all summer.

The Shannonsiders leaked 3-14 against Tipperary in the Munster semi-final but McCarthy pulled off a stunning second half save from Ronan Maher at a crucial stage.

Limerick then managed to blot out a Clare attack containing Shane O’Donnell and Bobby Duggan in the provincial decider, holding them goalless.

Source: breakingthrough/YouTube

And they survived arguably a bigger test against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final, as the Tribesmen’s attack featured senior stars Conor Whelan, Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion.

Flynn hit two of his seven points from play, and cut over a fine sideline in the first half, but Whelan managed just a point and Mannion was held scoreless.

5. Will we see more individual brilliance from Wexford?

Wexford boss JJ Doyle has insisted that it’s very much a team effort from Wexford but we’ve seen a couple of stunning moments of individual class from the Slaneysiders in this year’s U21 championship.

Remember Conor McDonald’s brilliant flick to release Cathal Dunbar for that stunning goal against Offaly in the Leinster championship?

Source: breakingthrough/YouTube

McDonald was at it again in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Antrim, with this superb handpass releasing Conor Devitt for a well-taken goal.

Conor McDonald flick Source: TG4

Doyle won’t mind if his players produce the fancy flicks and tricks at the right times but he’s warned that they must “play within the system.”

He said this week: “When they don’t play within the system, like they did against Antrim, you end up with the amount of wides we had.

“Lads have been fairly well reminded of their responsibilities to the team and not being doing things of their own… trying for scores from ridiculous places and distances.

“It is very much about doing what is right for the team and not what is going to earn individual praise.”

– First published 17.00, 11 Sept

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