The Limerick senior footballers enter Munster championship action this Saturday evening (7.00) when they play Cork in the Gaelic Grounds.
Last January highly respected boxing coach Gary Keegan gave a talk to the Limerick football panel.
There is no doubt that much of what Keegan had to say will come to the minds of the Limerick players and management this week.
Keegan is heralded with putting in place the structures that have seen Irish amateur boxing reach new heights and much of his talk in the Woodlands House Hotel will reverberate in the minds of all in the days and hours before Saturday’s Munster championship opener against Cork.
Indeed the title of Keegan’s talk was ‘Executing where and when it counts’.
Very apt indeed for a side that have so often seen the winning line but failed to cross it.
Indeed the last three encounters against Cork would fall into this category.
Time after time during that talk last January, Keegan mentioned the word ‘focus’.
The importance of Limerick’s focus on Saturday cannot be underestimated.
Limerick’s management and players are only too well aware that another slow start will not be accepted on Saturday.
The last two competitive games that Limerick played were against Clare and Offaly. Both saw Limerick fail to emerge from the blocks and forced them to play catch-up.
Likewise in games during last year’s championship.
Allowing Cork to find early momentum could be fatal.
Limerick need to avoid any early set-backs. That said they have shown great resilience to adapt and continually refuse to press the panic button. But if Saturday is to be one of the great wins of Limerick football a good start is a must - at least containing what will be an early Cork onslaught.
Time after time in the league Limerick proved themselves mentally strong in close finishes and getting to the second half in contention will have confidence high in the interval dressing room.
BOTH teams could set themselves up with an extra man in defence.
Conor Counihan’s side appear to play a more counter attacking style this season with one of their half forwards reverting to defence.
Offaly adopted this formation in the league final and it caused Limerick problems.
But once Limerick adapted and moved the ball and personnel at pace they were more than comfortable.
Cork also have a number of powerful runners available to them and at times Limerick have looked porous when forced onto the back foot.
Similar to Cork, Limerick will have the manpower in their team to position a player between the half back and full back line. Were this to happen, it would most likely see Stephen Lavin roam free and John Riordan revert to defensive duties.
All this would place extra pressure on the key score-getters and here the loss of Ian Ryan will be missed. He filled the role perfectly in Croke Park and in his absence Ger Collins, Eoghan O’Connor and Seanie Buckley will get scoring returns.
THE bookies make Limerick the 8/1 outsiders and the handicap betting suggests a seven point win for Cork.
But just one score has seperated the teams in their last three championship encounters.
Limerick will need to keep the scoring tight and are equipped defensively to do this.
It has been goals that have seen Cork overcome Limerick in many of the recent encounters.
But since Limerick’s emergence as realistic challengers at the turn of the millennium, they are yet to score a championship goal against Cork in six games.
Goals were also a problem in this season’s league and any green flag on Saturday would be key.
This will be an experienced Limerick line-up and perhaps a more settled unit than Cork, who it appears will have some U-21 debuts and some subtle positional chances from recent years.
In terms of preparation, Limerick will have ticked every box necessary.
Commitment, hunger, tactics, focus, fitness are all in place.
Confidence will come from a bright start and if this can be achieved Limerick can position themselves for another shock win.
As always, the underdogs need everything to go their way and fingers crossed this will be the case and Limerick will be off to Ennis on June 16 for a Munster semi-final.