Opinion: Limerick U20s lose but development crucial – Shane Dowling

I would have liked nothing more to have knocked for Thurles last Sunday afternoon in support of our under 20s but instead I wobbled out the door around 1.25pm ​​after landing after a bachelor party two days in Westport.

Under normal circumstances like this it would have been straight up the stairs for a few hours to catch up on what I had missed the previous two nights but instead I headed into the living room turning on the TV at time before throwing-in.

I usually look forward to sitting down for half an hour and listening to the pre-match analysis, but given that I passed the Irish ‘Pass’ for the Leaving Certificate and I barely crossed the line, it’s not something I have the luxury of doing with games on TG4.

I watched the Leinster U20 final between Wexford and Kilkenny and immediately afterwards my first thoughts were that the level was a bit below that of the Munster final.

I was in the Munster semi-final where we were playing Waterford, and although we started off slow, I thought we were very good in the second half. In the Munster final, beating Tipperary by five points was a great win and I always thought we were in control.

Also, when you go through the team, it seems like a very balanced team. I was very impressed with the backline this year. I’ve seen Evan O’Leary play a number of games for Ardscoil Rís and he’s been exceptional, a real quick and tiger corner back, reminds me a bit of Damian Reale.

Ok, maybe last weekend was one of his lesser games, but he has made tremendous progress. I have to admit I didn’t know much about Fergal O’Connor until this year, but he’s another boy who’s had a great year.

In the half-back line, obviously having Colin Coughlan with the experience he gained last year with the seniors was huge, and Cian Scully was also one of Ardscoil Ris’ best players this year.

In midfield, I have to be honest, the biggest memory I have of Jimmy Quilty is that he helped Limerick seniors in 2018 as his father Jimmy was manager.

I could not understand how much he had developed in a few years and he is also now with the seniors. Adam English is probably the most exciting player for me, with Aidan O’Connor not far behind him.

And in fact, Shane O’Brien falls into that category as well. I saw Adam English beat Na Piarsaigh on his own in last year’s U-21 final, and I think he has it all.

Aidan O’Connor, well, to be honest, the biggest surprise came to me when I realized he wasn’t in the senior team. I thought he fully deserved his place in there, but anyway, his time will come next winter. It has been exceptional this year.

I guess what I’m saying here is that even though we were beaten last weekend, when you go through the team, I actually think we can bring a lot of those players to develop and to progress.

Now, I’m not saying for a second that it’s a natural progression that they’ll be playing senior inter-county hurling.
But you have some very good players, with good attitudes, and once they keep their heads down and continue to develop, I think we will definitely have some. And besides, we need some.

Aside from Cathal O’Neill, the senior squad haven’t had a young player in the starting 15 in nearly six years. Everyone who was there in 2017 is still there.

And while things are still going well, it’s extremely important that we get these guys ready to step up when it’s their time.
On Cathal O’Neill, it pisses me off when you talk about that stupid rule. And it’s stupid that I’m PC. Honestly, I would like to know who offers these guts.

I just hope he can be overthrown – seeing Cathal wearing the hurleys last Sunday was disgusting.

I have to give Diarmuid Mullins big credit for the way he conducted himself in his post-match interview – and we can all learn from that, I know I did.

The easiest thing is to try to figure out why Hawk Eye wasn’t working, which was also ridiculous, but it did just fine.
Finally, while our 17 was a disappointment and we were all disgusted at not bringing another All-Ireland back to Limerick last Sunday, it is extremely important to keep our heads down and keep working because, as I have said, we need it.

We need to get more players to make a difference at senior level. Our time will come when we need it, some may not see it now, but trust me we will.

So everyone who works so hard at the Academy, from the U-14s through, let’s keep going, because that’s what got us to where we are now, but the thing is, we must try to stay there now!

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