Nine years on, Limerick’s minor crop of 2014 spearhead the senior juggernaut against Kilkenny

First published in July 2022*.

Rivalries will be renewed when Limerick meet Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final this Sunday.

“That was minor 2014 and for ourselves you don’t want to look too far back or too far forward you just want to focus on bettering yourself today and be a better person tomorrow, that’s our way of going.”

Cian Lynch prior to the 2022 all-ireland final

As it was 12 months ago, Limerick face Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship final, their third succcesive decider meeting following the League finale in April.

Limerick got the upper hand in Croke Park last July after a titanic battle with the Shannonisders reigning supreme in the Spring to hold all the available silverware.

Sunday, they’ll seek to equal the Cats record in winning four All-Ireland titles on the trot, a distinction they and Cork alone hold.

The Treaty are once again the favourites but that was the case nine years ago when the same counties met in the 2014 All-Ireland minor hurling final, a game that has helped shape the current Limerick generation.

Hoping to bridge a thirty year gap to their previous All-Ireland win, Brian Ryan’s Limerick minor side headed to Croke Park with the favourites tags looming large.

17 May 2016; Limerick’s Cian Lynch at the launch of the 2016 Bord Gáis Energy U21 GAA Hurling U21 All Ireland Championship. Kilmacud Crokes GAA Club, Glenabyn, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***

The previous year the side, captained by Richie English, were the victims of a contentious HawkEye decision as Barry Nash’s seemingly perfect point was ruled out.

Heading into 2014, the team lost the likes of English, Darragh O’Donovan and Mike Casey but a new crew emerged with Cian Lynch now captain.

Like the year previous, Limerick retained their Munster title, again needing a replay against Waterford.

Paired with Galway in the last four for the second successive year, Limerick were dominant in a 1-27 to 2-9 victory that booked their place against the Cats in the final.

In a cagey first half, neither side were able to find the upperhand as Ronan Lynch and Alan Murphy traded free after free.

They were level at 0-6 all midway through the half before Kilkenny hit a pair. Three on the trot from Limerick gave them their first lead but Kilkenny were soon level once more.

With the sides deadlocked at 0-10 apiece approaching the half time whistle, Kilkenny bagged a brace of points to give them a lead, they would not relinquish.

Kilkenny’s Darren Brennan made a brilliant stop to deny Peter Casey in the second half with Limerick just one point in arrears as John Walsh made no mistake at the other end to give Kilkenny daylight.

His second goal minutes later put them out of sight and try as they might, Limerick couldn’t get within touching distance as Kilkenny secured the 2-17 to 0-19 win and the title.

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That team was laden with future stars as no fewer than twelve of the nineteen players who featured on the day went on to win All-Ireland honours at the senior level.

Sean Finn, Paddy O’Loughlin, Lorcan Lyons, Colin Ryan, Andrew La Rouche Cosgrave, Robbie Hanley Lynch, Barry Nash, Seamus Flanagan, Peter Casey, Tom Morrissey and Barry Murphy all went on to claim national titles with some holding four senior All-Ireland’s heading into this weekend.

Nonetheless it was a heartbreaking defeat for the Limerick side who despite their tender age, didn’t dwell on the missed opportunity as they responded with a win in the U21 ranks a year later under the tutelage of John Kiely.

Finn, Ryan, Lynch, Nash, Casey and Morrissey all featured in that win over Wexford in 2015, Limerick’s first All-Ireland of any kind in 13 years, as they reclaimed their title in ’17, this time at Kilkenny’s expense.

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

Twelve months after that, they, including Seamus Flanagan, all played their part in the win over Galway as Limerick ended a 45-year wait for senior All-Ireland honours with Lynch named as Hurler of the Year and Finn picking up the first of his four All-Star awards. 

Aaron Gillane, a late bloomer who was part of the squad in 2014 but didn’t feature in the final was another from the team to excel at the senior ranks with the Patrickswell man current front runner for Hurler of the Year gong.

For Lynch and co, the reaction to the defeat has been phenomenal as they have responded to the setback by ushering in an unprecedented level of success.

Thirteen of that minor squad have All-Ireland medals, with nine winning multiple. Finn, Lynch, Nash, Casey, Morrissey, Gillane and Flanagan have the distinction of four All-Ireland titles to their credit as well as five Munster wins to boot.

11 June 2023; Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the Munster GAA Hurling GAA Championship Final match between Clare and Limerick at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

But while the Kilkenny contingent have the minor medal, none of those will enter the game on Sunday with a Celtic Cross.

From that minor team in 2014, only two featured in the semi-final win over Clare a fortnight ago in Tommy Walsh and Billy Ryan while star of the minor final, Alan Murphy waited in reserve.

Prior to the 2022 final, captain of the minor side from nine years previously Lynch was quick to say that the past was in the past,

“That was minor 2014 and for ourselves you don’t want to look too far back or too far forward you just want to focus on bettering yourself today and be a better person tomorrow, that’s our way of going.”

But while nine years will seem like a lifetime to all, there is a chance for Limerick to continue to build exponentially from the chastening defeat as they seek further history.

Whatever happens, the minor crop of ’14 will be central to Limerick’s chances.

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