In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks at what the Limerick hurlers need to do ahead of their Munster championship game against Tipperary.
Forty nine days from next Sunday the Limerick senior hurling team will run onto the pitch in Thurles where they will face Tipperary once more in the Munster hurling championship.
They are the holders of the title and after what most people will accept was a very disappointing National League they have only a short space of time to turn the bus in the right direction if they are to have any chance of overcoming their keenest rivals.
Winning the Munster title last year should have provided Limerick with a great foundation to build from but that has not happened during the League and gaps need to be filled both in defence and attack.
The considered view of most people at this stage is that Tipperary are ahead of Limerick now and while not overexciting their supporters they are in the National League semi final next Sunday at the Gaelic Grounds. The wheels really did come off the wagon for Limerick in the League and no excuses will satisfy supporters who felt very let down as the team had promotion in their own hands. That draw with Offaly was shocking.
I’m told the County Board met the management last week and unless they have been living on another planet they will have conveyed the low level of morale around the county and just how people felt that they were well wide of the mark as far as preparation is concerned. I have watched the training and it has a long way to come to match what others are doing, one player told me last week, “It’s very static.” He was kind in his choice of words but the heat is now coming on the County Board and many of them had very sad faces on them after the Galway defeat.
Two of them are, of course, directly linked with the appointment of this management team and that of course carries with it the raw heat of the furnace. Of all the years Limerick failed to win promotion to Division 1 A of the National League I think this year presented the greatest chance and now once again they will have to battle for another year unless Croke Park and the new group looking at hurling do them a favour and increase the number of teams in the top flight of the League.
Limerick were slow to get back to training and one of the things very noticeable in their games so far is that there has been a huge lack of intensity and passion in their play. I am long enough following Limerick and Tipperary games to know that once they face up to each other in Thurles they will bring the best in each other but the question is, have Limerick enough time and appetite to be ready for Tipperary? It has taken Tipperary a good while to settle things down and they will know a great deal more about themselves after they face Clare next Sunday in the Gaelic Grounds, either way it’s a game that will stand to them and having watched their training last week you get the sense things are coming together for them at the right time. Whether they beat Clare or not won’t either make them or break them but it will help mould the team spirit and most important of all they will be learning a little more about their players and play.
Very little player development has taken place this year as was the case last year and that came very much into focus in the Galway game, some lads are clearly not good enough to be on the panel and this has meant very little pressure on those who are in possession of the jersey and until that changes then I feel we will struggle to match the bigger boys in hurling. Subs are now a really big part of game and the guy coming in has to contribute. Limerick has places for the taking and while some players in the panel have the ability to play a part they have clearly not been given the right chance to develop as players. Serious time has been lost in this regard over the past two to three years and it’s now coming home to roost.
Limerick now need to lift the levels in training and will depend also on the odd challenge game to see where they are at coming into the Tipperary game. In the mix also will be two rounds of the club championship and for that players will be back with their clubs and that will also curtail their involvement with the county. I have said it before that those playing with the county don’t play enough hurling with their clubs. Next Sunday the championship will start in Kilkenny and all of Brian Cody’s men will be playing with their clubs despite a League semi final a week later. That wouldn’t happen in Limerick.
Despite what some might say the morale amongst some players has not been good and that needs to be got right very soon. Limerick have the ability to rally for the Tipperary game and let’s hope they can pull it together pretty quickly, a Limerick team in the right frame of mind have inflicted pain to teams in the past and it would be the hope of all Limerick supporters that over the next forty nine days they will fuel the tank and be ready for the blue and gold.