Limerick host Cork in make or break Munster U20 Hurling Championship clash

Diarmuid Mullins’ side face a Cork outfit already assured of their place in the final having won each of their contests thus far.

The Limerick U20s Munster championship defence is on the line as they welcome Cork in a do or die provincial clash on Friday evening in the TUS Gaelic Grounds.

Anything but a defeat will see the Shannonsiders dethroned as champions and bring an end to their season. A win would guarantee progress to the semi-finals of the competition while a draw would only be enough if Tipp lose out to Waterford.

Diarmuid Mullins’ side face a Cork outfit already assured of their place in the final with a game to spare having won each of their contests thus far as they bid to reclaim the title they won in 2021.

Limerick will rue a catastrophic first period against Tipperary last Friday in Semple Stadium where they trailed by ten points at the break after hitting just 0-2 in the first half hour.

A second half surge brought Limerick within one point in injury time but a Jack Leamy point gave Tipp a cushion as they held on for a 1-15 to 0-16 result to put huge pressure on the Shannonsiders.

The result leaves those sides level on three points, one behind Clare who have played all of their games. Cork top the table on six points with first place already assured.

It leaves Limerick with no option but to win if they want to continue the defence of the title they won against the Premier twelve months ago.

Mullins has shuffled the pack with three changes to the team defeated last Friday. Mikey Gavin, Oisin O’Farrell and Con Hayes coming into the XV. After limping off against Tipp, Adam English is named at full forward with Ethan Hurley moving to centre back and Cian Scully on the wing.

Cork have been impressive thus far picking up consecutive wins over Waterford, Tipperary and Clare. However, they were made to work for their round three win over the Banner with just one point separating the sides at the full time whistle. Limerick and Clare played out an entertaining draw when they met.

Manager Ben O’Connor could be boosted by the inclusion of his namesake Ben O’Connor with the youngster recently involved with the Irish U19 Rugby squad. The Newtownshandrum man also has senior squad members Ben Cunningham and Colin Walsh in his arsenal.

Whether they will be included in Pat Ryan’s senior squad remains to be seen with the 20s having their job done prior to throw in.

15 January 2023; Rob Downey of Cork in action against Shane O’Brien of Limerick during the Co-Op Superstores Munster Hurling League Group 2 match between Cork and Limerick at Páirc Ui Rinn in Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

These sides last met in the 2021 final in Pairs Ui Chaoimh where the hosts were 1-26 to 1-24 with Limerick’s fightback coming a little too late. From the 2023 Limerick squad, Adam English started while Ethan Hurley was a second half substitute. Cunningham clipped over a brace for Cork on the same evening while Downey also started for the Rebels.

That was a third successive loss to Cork at the grade with Limerick’s last win in the fixture coming in the 2017 U21 Final as the Tom Morrissey captained Shannonsiders claimed a second provincial title in three years with a 0-16 to 1-11 win.

Seven of that side started last Sunday’s Munster Senior Hurling Championship first round win over Waterford (Sean Finn, Kyle Hayes, Aaron Gillane, Cian Lynch, Barry Nash, Peter Casey and Tom Morrissey).

9 September 2017; Limerick players, from left, Barry Nash, Tom Morrissey and Cian Lynch celebrate at the final whistle of the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling All-Ireland U21 Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The current crop will look to emulate those players and will need a victory over Cork to do so. They will know a performance similar to the one in the second half in Tipperary would be enough but anything else could bring a premature end to their season.

The game will be live on TG4.

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