In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely reckons that the Limerick hurlers have enough quality to get the better of Dublin once again.
Limerick are where they expected to be and this Saturday evening in Thurles they face Dublin in the final of the Division 1B of the National Hurling League.
Such was the tame nature of many games in this League that it’s no great surprise that Limerick cruised into a final meeting with Dublin who they beat in Croke Park a few weeks ago. This is such an important week for Limerick and all concerned with the senior team will know only too well the importance of getting a result in this final.
Limerick now and in the coming years need to be playing at the highest level because the only way players can develop is by mixing their skills with the best players in the country.
Management, players and supporters would be very foolish to read anything into their last meeting with Dublin because, for the most part, the game lacked any sort of intensity but it will not be that way in Thurles next Saturday. In their last meeting Limerick looked very sluggish for long spells; Dublin, on the other hand, played with great purpose in the early stages and had a few goal chances that they failed to take.
I am sure Limerick won’t be in the same frame of mind next weekend but I also expect Dublin to come with a fierce challenge. Their team will also be stronger and I feel they will bring a real cutting edge into this encounter and Limerick must meet them head on if they are to win this game. The most important thing that Limerick have to do next Saturday is win, nothing else matters, how they play and how they win is of little significance because everything else can be put right later.
Dublin didn’t get too excited when they lost to Limerick a few weeks ago because manager Anthony Daly just like John Allen knew they would be squaring up to each other again very soon. Dublin collapsed in the second half in their Croke Park meeting but it had the desired effect because it has really helped Daly and Co drive the team on in recent weeks.
Dublin will target the Limerick half back line with high ball and while he did not play last time out I do expect Ryan O’Dwyer to play a major part in this latest battle. O’Dwyer, whose mother comes from Pallasgreen, is a quality player and loves to run at defences – he is also very good in the air and will require careful attention.
One of the things Dublin like to do is to make space behind the half forward line and for this reason Limerick will need to be very aware of closing down the space.
Dublin is a team that go for goals, they had five chances to punish Limerick and failed to take them in Croke Park and many of those chances came as a result of the Limerick backs over committing to the challenge and leaving themselves no room to recover.
I may be wrong but I don’t think Dublin tried very hard against Limerick in their last meeting in Croke Park, some might find that hard to believe but I feel Daly was always plotting for the bigger day and will go to war with a stronger outfit this time around. Anthony Daly may not like to admit it but he is under a great deal of pressure going into this game.
They won Division 1A of the League two years ago but enjoyed little time with the big guns as last year turned out to be pretty forgettable. Daly and the Dublin team will bring a real challenge to Thurles and the players will want to reward their manager who has stuck by them during hard times.
For the third year in a row Limerick will be involved in a National League Final, two years ago they won the right to advance and last year lost the final to Clare.
We have to go back to 2009 when Limerick last played in the top tier of the National League, the thoughts of playing in the lower division for another year would do serious damage to the longer term good of Limerick hurling.
Winning games in Thurles in recent years has become very difficult for Limerick, this team needs to lay down a marker for the future, they need to beat Dublin and by doing so they will give a much needed boost to hurling in the county.
The crowds attending Limerick games have been poor - much of this is due to the non competitive nature of some of the games. I would hope the Limerick supporters will travel next weekend because the team now needs a strong vocal effort in the stands.
Limerick have the players capable of beating Dublin but they will have to produce a big display to be sure of making the step to the higher level. The backs were shaky against Dublin but they were offered little support by their fowards who allowed Dublin time on the ball to pick out their men.
Limerick will have to play with massive intensity because if they do Dublin will find it hard to beat them. After five games of the National League I don’t really think we know if Limerick has made progress from last year.
Beating Dublin in this final would give us an indication and possible road map for the future. Limerick has a lot of good young players developing, the attack is starting to show possibilities but they will need to work harder to win possession and be a bit more ruthless.
I mentioned earlier about the defence and the importance of closing fowards down, they need to be direct and if they can achieve this then I would give them a huge chance of beating Dublin.
I was at the Wexford game last Sunday and while it had no significance I was impressed with the way some of the players performed. Tom Ryan and Mark Carmody impressed in defence while Kevin Downes always looked dangerous on the ball.
How Limerick place their team will have a huge bearing on this game but also the game plan they adapt. The Limerick management know enough about Dublin at this stage and they should have a plan in place to turn the tide in Limerick’s favour.
Limerick sat back and admired Dublin for almost 30 minutes in their last meeting, Dublin should have been out of sight but if they do the same next Saturday Dublin will be out of sight.
That being said, Limerick have enough quality to win this game and let’s hope it’s the start of greater things to come.