THE Munster SHL concludes tomorrow night with the Gaelic Grounds hosting the final between Limerick and Cork.
The majority of people treat these pre-season games with a grain of salt and in a few weeks time when the national league begins and further on they will be just a footnote.
However, thus far the organisers, sponsors and Munster Council will be well satisfied with how things have gone and the games have illustrated that there is an appetite among supporters for them despite the ridiculously early juncture in the year.
Two games, in particular, Cork and Waterford in the Fraher Field and Clare and Limerick in Sixmilebridge generated at attendance in excess of 3,000.
The other side of the coin was that the Cork and Kerry game in Mallow had just 250 hardy souls present.
Tonight’s final on the Ennis Road may well surpass the 5,000 mark, the McGrath Cup final precedes it between the same two counties.
So, outside of some of the McKenna Cup games up north, Munster is certainly leading the way in terms of support for these pre-season games.
Now that they are in the final and with a fortnight to go before the start of the national league you can be sure that Kieran Kingston and John Kiely will want to win this game and put down a bit of a marker before their two jousts in the secondary competition and in the Munster championship clash in early summer.
It’s been a mix of youth and experience for both managers up to now and the primary objective with these games is to try and embellish the squad at their disposal.
Limerick boss Kiely speaking in the aftermath of his side’s win over Clare in Sixmilebridge told the Limerick Leader that it is all about trying to play to his player’s strengths but Limerick have no intentions of changing their unique brand of hurling.
“We are not trying to change our style of play – absolutely not,” he said.
“We are committed to our principles in terms of what is important to us and how we want to play the game and that will never change.
“In terms of everybody’s ability to do it and their ability to do it well we are developing the decision making skills around that.
“Decision making skills are as important as what we are doing with the ball.”
Since the start of the current season, John Kiely has handed debuts to several younger players such as Darren O’Connell, Brian Ryan, Brian O’Grady, Mark Quinlan and Josh Considine, and he has been impressed so far.
The Limerick hurling manager believes the future of Limerick hurling is very bright.
“Very happy with the younger lads,” he said.
“They have made a great impression since they have come in.
“They have worked really hard and they have a fantastic attitude and they have assimilated very well into the group as a whole.
“There can be plenty of cause for optimism. Not just this year but next year and the year after and the year after.
“There are players continuously coming through and making an impact on the group,” added Kiely.
He was full of praise for centre half-forward David Reidy who put in an impressive performance in Sixmilebridge scoring 1-12 to secure Limerick’s place in this weekend’s final against Cork.
“David did very well. He has been a very important player for us over the past few years and he is very ambitious and wants to fight for his place in the starting team.
Kieran Kingston too has not been slow to give youth its fling and players like Brian Turnbull, Tommy O’Connell, Shane Og Regan and Sean Twomey have been introduced.
Strengthening the squad was one of Kingston’s primary objectives when he returned to the fold after a two-year absence and opportunity is knocking now for these young players and here on Leeside there are quite a few of very good, young hurlers right now.
There may well be a very serious competitive edge to tonight’s game with Kiely aware of how his team were turned over twice by Cork last season.
At this juncture in the season it’s all about putting down a marker here and there.