Limerick’s Academy has continued to produce exceptional players over the year ushering in an unprecedented level of success for the Shannonsiders.
Over the last few years, Limerick have been blessed with their production line certainly living up to the hype.
The 2013 and ’14 minor squads who claimed Munster honours have backboned the current senior team that last July completed a historic three in a row.
John Kiely’s side will begin the 2023 season aiming to make it five on the trot in Munster for the first time ever with his core group of players continuing to deliver.
Last October’s All-Star awards brought the number of players in the squad with multiple individual gongs to 11. Still, the side have began to integrate some players into the line up with Cathal O’Neill and Conor Boylan proving their worth throughout last year’s championship.
And the supporting cast across the county is continuing to grow with a number of young starlets certainly putting their hand up for selection.
Ahead of the new season, we pick out five players poised for a breakout year.
Check out the past three editions below.
Five Young Limerick Hurlers poised for breakout 2020
Five Young Limerick Hurlers poised for breakout 2021
Five Young Limerick Hurlers poised for breakout 2022
*Players included in previous posts weren’t considered for selection.
Ronan Lyons (Monaleen)
It has been an incredible 2022 for Ronan Lyons who now awaits an All-Ireland hurling final against Toreen on January 14 as his club bid for the Intermediate title. Lyons is one of group of Monaleen youngsters leading the charge on the title alongside the likes of Bryan Canny, Lochlann McHale, Joe Fitzgerald and more. For club, Lyons has been positioned at wing back alongside brother and All-Ireland winner Lorcan where he has excelled throughout the season.
This year he has won Premier Intermediate honours to go with a Munster intermediate title. He was also a part of the Monaleen side that were beaten in the Premier U19 Final as well as the Limerick U20 team that fell to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final. Lyons participation for Diarmuid Mullins’ side was disrupted by injury but under the same manager he was a minor All-Star in 2020. At corner-back, he was imperious in helping Limerick to a first Munster crown in six years.
He has shown his ability to play further up the field for Monaleen this year at #7 where he is a regular amongst the scorers. In Monaleen’s back-and-forth All-Ireland semi-final, he clipped in with four second-half points, including the final score of the game that sealed victory.
Still underage for the Limerick U20s he is sure to be one of the first names on the teamsheet when the championship kicks off next spring.
Liam Lynch (Mungret St Pauls)
Had a hugely disrupted 2022 campaign after suffering a cruciate knee injury in the build-up to last year’s Munster Intermediate club championship semi-final. As a result, he missed out on Mungret St Pauls maiden season back in the top tier of Limerick hurling as they consolidated their position in the senior ranks.
Lynch made his return in the premier U21 championship and was instrumental in his sides run to the final as their scorer-in-chief. And with a couple of games under his belt, he will have time over the Winter to further get back into the swing of things where he is likely to be a key man with the Limerick U20s.
He missed the run to the All-Ireland final this year but he could be the spark for Mullins’ men to go one step further. The attention will then switch to the club as he prepares for a first stint in the senior ranks with the City club.
David Fitzgerald (Kildimo Pallaskenry)
One of two players on this list to play their first year of adult hurling in 2022, David Fitzgerald was sensational for Kildimo Pallaskenry as they secured promotion to 1A of the Limerick Senior Hurling Championship. Whether positioned at wing-back or in midfield, Fitzgerald didn’t look one inch out of place, playing a starring role in KP’s promotion.
As a part of the Limerick Academy, Fitzgerald only had one game at minor playing in the Covid interrupted 2021 season as the Shannonsiders fell to Cork in the Munster semi-final. Nonetheless, Fitzgerald bagged Limerick’s only goal of the game late on in a sign of things to come.
He translated that scoring prowess into the adult ranks, notching a point on his debut against Mungret St Pauls. Not overawed by the occasion, Fitzgerald was arguably their best player on the night not named Kyle Hayes. He would find the target against South Liberties and Blackrock as KP earned promotion to the Senior A ranks in just their second year in the top flight. His ability to fulfill a number of roles allowed KP to flourish.
On the county scene, he was a part of the Limerick U20 squad that reached the All-Ireland final but didn’t make an appearance for Diarmuid Mullins’ side. However, that is likely to change in 2023 as he looks to build on a fine maiden year in the adult ranks.
Mikey Gavin (Ballybrown)
The other name on the list that just played in their first year out of the underage ranks is Ballybrown’s Mikey Gavin. 2022 was a phenomenal season for the teenager who burst onto the scene on St Patricks Day with a fine performance for Ardscoil Rís as they claimed a first-ever Croke Cup title at the expense of St Kierans College. Gavin was stationed at wing back and didn’t seem fazed by the Croke Park surroundings.
He followed that up by making his senior debut for Ballybrown in their comprehensive win over Blackrock, adding a point from #5. In the must win clash against Garryspillane where Ballybrown were reduced to 14-men, Gavin twice found the target to bring their promotion hopes to the final day as they ultimately fell just short.
However, he and the Clarina men would make amends for the senior disappointment in capturing the Limerick Premier U21 title at the expense of Mungret St Pauls. Gavin filtered between centre back and midfield, dovetailing with All-Ireland winner Colin Coughlan. That added to his expanding medal collection with the youngster winning a premier minor title in 2019. He collected a second medal at the grade the following year before capturing the Premier U19 championship in 2021.
Still in school in Ardscoil Rís, Gavin is likely to be part of the U20s set up for the coming season and will be key to Ballybrown’s promotion hopes.
Fergal O’Connor (Effin)
It may seem strange to single out a player in this sort of list that already has an All-Ireland senior hurling medal to his name but Fergal O’Connor’s meteoric rise over the past few years has been a joy to witness. He was corner back on the Limerick side that claimed Munster Minor honours in late 2020 and he hasn’t looked back since his game to new heights in the meantime.
O’Connor and co couldn’t add All-Ireland to their provincial success but he was called up to the U20 side for the following season where he featured in their Munster final loss to Cork. However, that disappointment didn’t perturb him as he was a central figure in helping Effin back to the Premier Intermediate ranks with a brilliant display in seeing off Croagh Kilfinny in the IHC Final where he struck over a brace of points from midfield.
Switching attention back to the county set up this year, he made the full-back position his own as Limerick stormed to a first-ever U20 Munster title, defeating Clare, Tipp and Waterford en route. Diarmuid Mullins’ side fell to Kilkenny by a point in the All-Ireland final but O’Connor’s performances saw him drafted into the senior set-up where he claimed a Celtic Cross medal.
He returned to his club where he was excellent once more as they reached the premier intermediate semi-finals in their return to the grade and with Mike Casey expected to be on the sidelines for the early part of the season, do not be surprised to see O’Connor involved with the seniors on the field.