Friday 21 October 2016

All Ireland U-21 Hurling Final: Limerick blast Wexford aside in power play

The Limerick team celebrate with the cup after the game
The Limerick team celebrate with the cup after the game

When Conor McDonald scored a magnificent goal in the 51st minute of this All-Ireland under 21 final the prospect of a storming finish loomed large.

Wexford had been so far off the pace for so long but this was an olive branch out of nothing as their marquee forward finally came to life with a stunning shot from 25 metres.

The response said everything about this Limerick team however. They scored nine unanswered points over the next 11 minutes as they closed out victory with some magnificent hurling.

It is the county's first All-Ireland title in the grade since 2002 when they won the last of their three-in-a-row and they'll be hoping for a much better harvest from this bunch who look really special.

With 11 of the starting team eligible for the grade again next year their future is bright.

They didn't score a goal but they had Wexford at arm's length all night, reducing the Leinster champions to just eight scores and only two from their starting forwards.

It was a defensive masterclass from Limerick, led by captain Diarmuid Byrnes. But they had strength everywhere and when the game opened up in the first half their forwards really showed their class.

Cian Lynch operated deep and made some scintillating runs while Barry Nash was magnificent at half-forward.

Wexford were bursting at the seams early in that first half. Having leveled, 0-2 each, through Andrew Kenny off their own puck-out, they went more than 16 minutes before they scored again as Limerick took complete control.

Pat Ryan and Diarmuid O'Donovan dominated midfield, Sean Finn, Richie English, Byrnes and Gearoid Hegarty all made big defensive interventions while the forwards just oozed class as the game progressed.

They were leading 0-5 to 0-2 after 12 minutes when Ryan played a superb cross-field ball to David Dempsey who cut in and came under pressure from his marker Jim White.

White fouled, Dempsey got a shot away and Wexford goalkeeper Oliver O'Leary saved but Ronan Lynch snapped the rebound to the net.

Referee Johnny Ryan didn't allow advantage for the foul however and they had to be satisfied with a Lynch free.

At least Ryan was consistent, later denying Wexford an advantage when Kevin Foley was grounded before Cathal Dunbar fired home.

Again the free, this time from Conor McDonald, was scant consolation. That left it 0-8 to 0-4 to Limerick and any momentum Wexford might have gained was lost as Limerick closed the half with points from Pat Ryan, Cian Lynch and Barry Nash to establish a 0-11 to 0-4 interval lead.

Wexford needed a bright start to the second half but it was Ryan who again set Limerick on their way and they were really troubled after that.

The move of the night saw Nash and Morrissey combine superbly to put substitute Andrew La Touche-Cosgrave in and he was fouled but from the penalty Limerick had the luxury of substitute Peter Casey putting it over the bar.

Wexford have now lost 10 All-Ireland under 21 finials since their only win in 1965.

Scorers: Limerick: R Lynch 0-6 (5fs), B Nash 0-5, T Morrissey 0-4, P Ryan, C Lynch, P Casey (0-1 pen) 0-3 each, D Byrnes (1f) 0-2. Wexford: C McDonald 1-4 (0-3fs, 0-1 sl), P Foley (f), C Dunbar, A Kenny all 0-1 each.

Limerick: D McCarthy; S Finn, R English, M Casey; D Byrnes, B O'Connell, G hegarty; D O'Donovan, P Ryan; B Nash, T Morrissey, D Dempsey; C Lynch, C Ryan, R Lynch. Subs: P Casey for C Ryan (49), A La Touche-Cosgrave for P Ryan (52), J Kelliher for R Lynch (54), M O'Callaghan for Finn (57), J Hannon for O'Donovan (58).

Wexford: O O'Leary; S Donoghue, L Ryan, E Conroy; J White, P Foley, J O'Connor; C Devitt, T French; A Kenny, K Foley, J Cash; C Dunbar, C McDonald, P Sutton. Subs: Shane Murphy for French (35), S Kenny for Devitt (43), S Kelly for K Foley (K Foley (45), J Firman for Cash (47).

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