Pat Donnelly – “If we prepare right, if we play well it will take a good team to beat us”
On Saturday 9th of September Limerick will take on Kilkenny in the 2017 All Ireland U21 final in Thurles. Limerick were victorious at this age group two years ago and retain several members of the successful 2015 squad.
Kilmallock’s Dan Joy and Patrickwell’s Cian Lynch are carrying slight niggles from the weekend’s exploits but despite that Donnelly is optimistic about their participation in the final. We caught up with manager Pat Donnelly to see how his sides preparations are going.
“We’ve a couple of injuries. We don’t know how serious they are but we believe they’re not too bad. We’ll know more during the week. It could be later in the week before we really know how they are.
“The lads have been to see the physio and they have rehabed pretty quickly, straight after the game. We got them treated straight away so fingers crossed they will be ok.”
Despite the concerns surrounding the Lynch and Joy, Donnelly is adamant that it will not effect their preparations for the week. The South Liberties man is confident that there is enough strength in depth in his panel.
“I keep saying we have a panel of players that are very very good. We are not going to play players that are injured. We are going to go out with fifteen fellas that are fit. We have preached that the panel is very strong. We might have to dig deep and if we do, we are not worried about it or concerned.”
Opponents Kilkenny come into the game after a strong Leinster showing brushing aside Wexford in the final while in the All Ireland semi final, the cats had 52 points to spare against a below-par Derry side.
“They (Kilkenny) had three good games. They played Dublin, Westneath and Wexford and I think they’ve changed their team a quite a good bit in the three games. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing I don’t know. They don’t see to have a settled 15… We know that the squad is strong, we’ve seen the reserve team play.”
“If we prepare right, if we play well it will take a good team to beat us if we perform to the level we are capable of.”
Despite getting past Clare and Tipperary in routine fashion, Limerick received stern tests from Cork and Galway. On both occasions, Donnelly’s team were put to the pin of their collars but on both occasions they showed the required mettle and poise to get the job done.
Limerick have been battle hardened by the Cork and Galway outings and come into the final with justifiable confidence. While a number of the squad have experienced All Ireland finals at both minor and U21 grades, there is pressure on Limerick to perform and live up to the favourites tag they’ve carried all summer. The treaty men are once more odds on favourites for the final with some bookmakers having them at 8/15 on.
Donnelly is confident in his team’s preparation and expects them to perform on the day.
“Pressure won’t come into it, the same nerves from the players and management will always be there.”
“We’ve got together for 84 sessions, that’s a lot for an under 21 side. Mikey Kiely has done a great job on the training ground as well as the two lads Mossy O’Brien and Brian Foley”
“The name Kilkenny is huge in hurling. Again, not to get caught up in it. If they look at us, they’re looking at a serious team, so I don’t see any inferiority complex.”
Limerick’s run to the final has seen them account for Tipperary, Clare, Cork, Galway and now face Kilkenny – a side that has not won an U21 title since 2008 and who are looking to win their 12th James Nowlan Cup.
The pedigree of the counties Limerick have accounted for is certainly noteworthy and something that Donnelly is acutely aware of.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, I would consider this a fantastic final to win because of who we have played up along. We have played the best of the best and Kilkenny in the final will be the best of the best so it would be a magnificent championship to win.
“People say it might not be the best championship but for Limerick to beat Tipp, Clare, Cork, Galway and if we beat Kilkenny, then what a championship.”
You can watch Pat Donnelly’s interview in full on the link below.