"John was probably the last guy to get the better of Sean Finn" - How Kilkenny beat Limerick's golden generation in 2014 1 month ago

"John was probably the last guy to get the better of Sean Finn" - How Kilkenny beat Limerick's golden generation in 2014

"John was probably the last guy who got the better of Sean Finn, 2-5 he got off him that day."

Brian Cody must be praying, right about now, that there's another John Walsh in Kilkenny. He could have had the real one - Walsh was on the Kilkenny panel at the start of the year, only to be dropped off it since -but  the Cats are hoping another magician steps up this Sunday.

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And a magician is exactly what they have.

Eoin Cody will mark Finn this time around and, depending on how you look at it, if one man's sentence is another man's opportunity, he certainly has the tricks. He was only 14 back in 2014 but no matter what way you look at it, and even though it's a long time ago now, the similarities between that year's minor final and this year's senior final are undeniable.

Limerick the red-hot favourites, Kilkenny the underdogs with a plan.

A key part of their plan that day revolved around Conor Browne, a tenacious midfielder with the maddest of engines, and his task was to follow Cian Lynch no matter where he went. He'd have followed him into the toilet then and he'd do the same thing now.

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The word is that Lynch will miss out this time around but regardless, and even if he make a miraculous recovery, Browne will be reporting for duty like a soldier on a peacekeeping mission. He'll probably follow him into the stand if that's where he's going.

Because in Kilkenny and as long as Brian Cody's over them, that's exactly what these Cats will do. They won't give you space to breathe.

Browne is one of five Kilkenny players who featured in that minor final while, on the other side, six Limerick men have survived.

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Their forward line that day was something special - Nash, Morrissey, Lynch, Casey and Flanagan were all in the mix - but it was the man from Mullinavat who stole the show. Pat Hoban is also from Mullinavat - he was the Kilkenny manager that day and as he muses about that famous win, the details coming back to him bit by bit, there is one detail he'll never forget.

"John had been struggling for form during the year but he came on against Waterford in the semi, against a very good Waterford team, and he got a great goal. His form really just took off then in training and he brought it right through to the final.

"John had unbelievable pace at that point in his career and once he got away from you, he was gone, like a bullet. He did such damage that day that we couldn't believe they never changed Finn off him.

"John did his cruciate then when he was in college. He was back on the Kilkenny panel at the start of the year, and he's been on and off it for a few years, but he hasn't really made the break-through for the seniors. He got a goal for the footballers in their win last weekend and he's very good for the club."

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Time is on his side yet.

Walsh was Kilkenny's main man that day but we're not talking about the one you're thinking of when we say that Lynch was Limerick's. Ronan Lynch was such a good minor in 2014 that, by 2015, when he was still a minor, he was called up to the Limerick senior panel.

"I remember going to the other semi-final, and Limerick played Galway," says Hoban.

"Conor Whelan stood out for Galway, but Limerick absolutely annihilated them, and a chap called Ronan Lynch was amazing for them. At that stage he was considered to be the great hope nearly."

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He played in their League campaigns in 2016 and '17 but by '18 and with John Kiely at the helm, he was culled and hasn't got a look-in since. These things happen. That's inter-county hurling at its toughest.

And this will be inter-county hurling at its best. Tommy Walsh was only 16 that day but still, and even two years out of his age, he was trusted with the job of marking Ronan Lynch. He'll probably have Peter Casey for company this time around.

"I'm sure in the Limerick lad's heads, I know from talking to the likes of Henry, Tommy Walsh, JJ," says Hoban, "none of them ever won a minor, and it's one thing, from talking to them, that they'd love to have because it's one of those connections. Once it's gone, it's gone, you only get a few chances at it and it's something they'd love to have achieved but look, they're more than making up for it now.

"Limerick went on and got a bit of revenge in 2017 when they beat us in the under-21 but look they were brilliant young lads, the first team to come through that academy and they probably were ahead of our lads back then. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then and they've been the top dogs since."

"I think it's one that Limerick want," Hoban adds for a finish.

"We beat them at minor, beat them in '19, the 20s beat them this year, so what a way it would be for them to win a three-in-a-row. There won't be any complacency on Limerick's behalf anyway, not that they were that day, but we did maybe catch them off guard a bit."

"That was the boys of '14 now sure. The last one we've won. We'll need something similar again Sunday."