It wasn’t all lost though as the U21 championship was looming large on the summer horizon and with that came the now customary anticipation of what vagaries the action would throw up this year.
It was Limerick again in the Munster Semi-Final as the Treaty men, reigning Munster and All-Ireland champions arrived in Thurles fresh from defeating Cork by seven points in the Quarter-Final. With only Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) from the starting fifteen on the senior panel lining out for the U21 team Tipp were expected to find it tough against Limerick. However, the form book was turned on its head as Tipperary U21 hurlers and management capped off a wonderful week for the County in mid-July in defeating Limerick 2-12 to 1-13 in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster Semi-Final in Semple Stadium.
Again, rain made conditions difficult but William Maher’s side went about their task with purpose and were well prepared for the serious challenge Limerick set before them. A first half goal by Andrew Coffey (Nenagh Éire Óg) and a late second half strike from Ronan Teehan (Gortnahoe-Glengoole) were crucial in ensuring Tipperary emerged from the late Limerick comeback two points to the good. In keeping with the trend set by seniors and minors, Paul Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash) was named the TG4 Man of the Match.
Pictured right are happy Tipperary players Billy McCarthy and Conor Lanigan (both Thurles Sarsfields) after the semi-final win.
Next up was a Munster Final clash with Waterford and this was not going to be easy. Walsh Park was the setting for that Munster Final and as the locals thronged into the ground there was a tremendous atmosphere however hometown it was but the place was hopping none the less. It was a tension filled first half with Tipp on equal footing with the hosts. All that would change coming close to half time when a disputed play left Tipp on the back foot, as a Waterford goal saw them edge ahead by two at the break. Despite being level with fifteen minutes remaining Waterford were unstoppable in the last quarter and claimed the title by 2-19 to 0-15. Tipp were far better than the score line showed but as is often the case, when a side gets a run on you it’s hard to peg them back. Nonetheless the Tipp U21 management can be proud of their achievements this year, taking the mighty scalp of Limerick on their journey as they look forward to next year.