Martin Kiely pays tribute to the Limerick footballers after their impressive opening-round win over Leitrim.
Sometimes you have to go to war to find out the calibre of the men in the trenches, it’s only then, in the heat of battle, will you truly know if they are capable of holding their own under pressure.
Such an environment can be claustrophobic and many choke before the battle begins. It might not have been as drastic for Maurice Horan, the Limerick football manager, last Sunday but it must have felt a little like it as he was forced to play the opening round of the National League short so many of his first choice players.
Many of the regular names were missing due to injuries picked up in the McGrath Cup and it forced the management to have a serious look at the bench. Division 4 of the National League could be described as dogged, passionate, robust and often skilful and we saw a bit of all of that in the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday.
The pitch was solid but the grass held the morning’s rain which made it difficult to control the ball. It wasn’t a day for flash football moreover it was all about doing the simple things well. Football at this level requires a huge work ethic and to Limerick credit they showed a fierce appetite for the entire game.
Leitrim came to Limerick on the back of winning the FBD League and, make no mistake about it, they had high hopes of leaving with their first brace of points in the League. This was the goal they set themselves according to manager Barney Breen but a very brave Limerick produced a display that was so very honest.
I have often said before that seldom have the footballers lacked the sort of honesty needed to survive at this level. They have, time after time, produced some great displays and I think last Sunday was a match for any that went before given that they lined out without as many as six of their starting team.
Leitrim had a strong team on the field and before it finished they added a further five and still Limerick withstood the late rally. Last Sunday’s game will stand to many of the cubs in the days ahead as they begin their relationship with football at this level. It takes time, patience and a willingness to work diligently to master the art of football, some make it others are only journey men but games such as last Sunday give you a fair idea of the sort of steel required to play at the highest level.
The football base in Limerick is very small. There was a time when it wasn’t fashionable in Limerick to wear a football jersey but thankfully over the last ten years that has changed. Deep down Maurice Horan must have been worried going into last Sunday’s game but he showed little of that on the exterior before the game started.
Last Sunday was an opportunity for lads to stand up and put their shoulder to the wheel – they did that and in doing so won a very important brace of points to set a good foundation for their hopes of winning promotion. I thought a few of the Limerick players went beyond the call of duty, players like Tom Lee at midfield, who left the field with the oxygen gauge in the red such were his efforts.
John McCarthy kept the shape at the rear while the very impressive John Riordan displayed his skills and leadership qualities in abundance in this game. I know of no other player who wears the Limerick jersey with the pride and determination expressed by Riordan. This young man has many qualities but chief among them is the honest endeavour he always expresses on the pitch.
Limerick had a strong set of backs on view for this game but a fear did exist about the attack, many of the players would have needed a bit of experience around them but to their credit many of the players really took the game to Leitrim. Few did that better than Eoghan O’Connor, the Sean Finns’ man was good from play and also from frees and that was to prove crucial on the day. O’Connor has massive pace and the greasy pitch made it difficult for him and also Seamus O’Carroll. This was O’Connor’s best day in the Limerick jersey, not just because of what he scored but also because he showed a capacity to show leadership and that will stand to him in the future.
Limerick were a point behind at the break but they made a real push early in the second half and kicked some great points. Twenty minutes in they had gone four clear and at that stage looked to be well on their way. Now playing with the wind Limerick started to move the ball with greater pace and Leitrim were struggling to cope with it. Normally Stephen Lavin’s compass can become wayward as he passes the second forty five meter line but he landed a mighty score and it lifted the team.
Pride can so often be a team’s rescue and so it was with Leitrim’s as they sensed the final stages of the game. They kicked three points in a row to leave just one between them but a final kick from James O’ Meara secured the valuable points. Limerick now face Offaly next Sunday and I can assure you this is going to be a very difficult contest. For the past few years Offaly football has been in a dismal place but that has changed in recent months. The players have turned the corner and they are working very hard.
This will be a huge test for Limerick and they will need some of their more potent forwards back if they are to leave Tullamore with a win in this game. Maurice Horan knows a little more about his soldiers after this game. Limerick dug themselves out of the trenches last Sunday and a continuation of that will be required for the remainder of this League.
Hurling management show a ruthless streak
The senior hurling management left some blood on the floor in Kilmallock last Saturday after they culled the panel for the National Hurling League.
There was some surprise when the news broke that David Moloney and Tommy O’Brien were among those dropped from the panel. Moloney, from the Blackrock club, has played some great hurling in the past and I thought he was badly treated last year in that he only played about 15 minutes of hurling on the field. Moloney is an honest player and would be a benefit to any panel. Tommy O’Brien from Patrickswell has battled injuries in the last couple of years and it’s rather strange to also see him leave the panel despite scoring four points in what was termed a trial game.
It’s going to be a very interesting year for this team and I hope that the ruthless streak will transfer to the field in the weeks ahead because, let’s face it, we badly need it.
Chance missed to start on a strong footing
Last week saw the first meeting of the County Board for the new year and despite what we hoped for it was a case of much of the same at this meeting.
It was a tame affair and lacked any real energy and direction that might at least make us think of better days ahead. Divisional teams got the chop and I don’t think we will ever see a return for them in the future. It was also clear from this meeting that some of those who have just joined the County Board are still coming to terms with sitting at the top table.
It was no surprise to many in Limerick that the County Board are not in a great place as far as finance is concerned but the feeling on the floor after the meeting was that many were disappointed with the contribution of new treasurer Donal Morrissey. When it came for him to speak he said, “No change since Convention”.
I doubt if that’s the case and we all know what it’s costing to train teams every week. It was a surprise to many also that he said he would prefer if clubs didn’t contact him from Monday to Thursday but that he would be at the Gaelic Grounds on Fridays. That’s a new departure for how things are done.
He also told us he would be holding a meeting with the all treasurers in the next couple of weeks. Mr Morrissey knows exactly the state of the finances in Limerick GAA but chose to keep it to himself at last week’s meeting.
It’s not that long ago that he was fast to ask question from the floor and demanded answers but he missed a great opportunity to state the true facts and in doing so lay a foundation for recovery.