LIMERICK football manager Maurice Horan has urged his players to build on Sunday’s Croke Park visit in 2012.
In his first year at the helm the Mayo native guided Limerick to a first ever All-Ireland football championship quarter-final just months after his side were relegated to the basement division of the Allianz League.
“The positives are that the last three championship performances for Limerick have been outstanding and nothing short of it,” said Horan after the 13-point loss to Kerry in Croke Park.
“We were about to completely break apart as a panel after the game against Kerry at the Gaelic Grounds. We had a meeting the following week and it was no holds barred. We all talked about whether we wanted to have a lengthy career in inter-county football, be it as management, personnel or players. We said that was the choice facing us at the time. I think we showed a lot of spirit and resourcefulness, creativity, in terms of players playing out of position,” he explained.
“A lot of people would have thought the panel was dead and buried with the injuries and knocks and then the hurlers. But we came back at it,” said Horan.
“We’ll keep filtering new players through all the time. You have to keep filtering new blood in all the time and it is positive. Some people think there is not a big depth of talent in Limerick but there is actually a lot of good footballers in Limerick.”
He added: “There was maturity in terms of guys who hadn’t played for Limerick previously. John Riordan in his first year playing inter-county football has marked Ciaran McManus, Paul Galvin and Colm Morris — he has done a great job on all of them”.
“All of the players like Lavin, Stephen Lucey and John Galvin who is injured, they have soldiered for a long time and they really wanted this today. They (Kerry) have the tradition over Limerick. Limerick are trying to make the breakthrough. They are constantly trying to make the breakthrough for the last 10 or 11 years.”
Horan was left to rue a number of chances among a tally of 10 wides.
“We had opportunities during the first half and we were living off scraps really for a long period of time. We had, not what I’d call a purple patch, but we had a lot of possession and started defending very well and they hadn’t scored for 10 or 12 minutes. We managed to get a foothold in the game,” he recalled.
“We had a chance with Stephen Kelly’s shot which was desperately unlucky but they got that goal which was very well-taken in fairness. That was it, there was a bit of daylight between the two teams again and we were struggling to make the gap the whole time.”
A half-time talk saw Limerick rally but again fall short.
“We felt we were definitely in it at half-time as seven points isn’t really that much. We started off brightly in the second half and had a couple of opportunities but didn’t take them. Kerry started getting a couple of scores and putting daylight between us again. We’re hanging on by our fingernails for long periods of time there and it petered out in the last seven or eight minutes. That is the way it is unfortunately.”
But Horan is happy that his side are learning from the best.
“Our last four losses have been to Kerry, Kerry, Cork and Kerry, and that’s over the last two years. So we have to hold out heads up, we are playing against the very best and we are competing.”