BRUFF’S indomitable spirit was key in helping the County Limerick side pull clear of the relegation battle in Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League last season, Colm Kinsella looks at how the Kilballyowen outfit is shaping up ahead of this weekend’s start of the new League season
COACHING TEAM: Head coach: Mike Lynch; Assistants: Cathal O’Regan, John O’Connor
Physical trainer: Brenden Burke; Dietician: Tom O’Callaghan; Physios: Pauline McAuliffe, Derry Bohan; Manager: Neilus Noonan
LAST YEAR: 7th in 1B
FORM: Defeat to eventual winners UL-Bohs’ in the Charity Cup was followed by a hugely disappointing exit from the Munster Senior Cup at the hands of Cashel. Did bounce back to winning ways on Saturday when getting the better of Highfield in their Cyril Fitzgerald Plate quarter-final
PLAYERS OUT: Alan Bourke (Switzerland), Tony Cahill (Australia), John Carroll (Retired), Michael Collins (Cork), David Conway (New Zealand), Stephen Foster (Australia), David Gardiner (Australia), Brian Horan (Middle East), Ronan Kirby (Australia), Brian Morrissey (studying, Edinburgh), Dermot Murnane (Retired), Rory O’Connor (Australia), Patrick Thompson (studying, Poland)
PLAYERS IN: John Perrott (Galwegiens).
MAIN MAN: Brendan Deady - Highly effective and dependable full-back who loves to counter with ball in hand. Deady’s experience in a backline which is set to be without several first team regulars from recent seasons will be crucial to Bruff’s hopes of enjoying a comfortable time in 1B
ONE TO WATCH: Maurice O’Connell -As club captain of a very young and inexperienced side, O’Connell will be looking to lead from the engine room this season. O’Connell boasts an impressive work-rate and is a proven leader on the pitch.
EARLY FIXTURES; Bruff v Ballymena, Kilballyowen Park, Saturday, September 29, 2.30pm; UCD v Bruff, Belfield, Saturday, October 6, 2.30pm; Malone v Bruff, Gibson Park, Saturday, October 27, 2.30pm; Bruff v Dublin University, Kilballyowen Park, Saturday, November 3; Buccaneers v Bruff, Dubarry Park, Sunday, November 11, 2.30pm
VERDICT: The fact that up to 17 senior players from the squad which tasted Bateman All-Ireland Cup final glory in April 2011 have departed the set-up gives some indication of how badly hit by the recession the club has been. A large number of first team regulars have moved overseas for work purposes. It is to Bruff’s credit that they managed to secure their 1B status at the end of last season by recording a string of impressive results. While Bruff lost some notable names from their playing squad over the summer months, they have beefed up their backroom team with the arrival of former Old Crescent head coach, Mike Lynch. While an early exit from the Limerick Charity Cup was followed by a surprise defeat to Cashel in the first round of the Munster Senior Cup, Bruff did get back to winning ways last weekend with a timely victory over Highfield. Given the limited playing resources at their disposal, Bruff will hope they can avoid a string of long-term injuries over the course of the season. A good start holds the key for Bruff’s prospects. They open with a home tie against Ballymena who finished fifth in the Division last season, before heading to Dublin to face UCD, who finished a point below the Limerick side last term. Bruff look like needing all their renowned fighting spirit to avoid a relegation battle this season.