Footballers draw Offaly in Qualifiers

LIMERICK’S footballers will look to banish the memories of the heavy defeat to Kerry in the Munster championship when Offaly come to town in round two of the All-Ireland Qualifiers.

LIMERICK’S footballers will look to banish the memories of the heavy defeat to Kerry in the Munster championship when Offaly come to town in round two of the All-Ireland Qualifiers.

Maurice Horan’s Limerick were drawn to face the midlanders in the backdoor draw last evening. The tie will take place in the Gaelic Grounds, most likely on Saturday July 9.

However, should the Limerick hurlers defeat Wexford next Saturday, they would also be due to play on July 9 (against Cork or Antrim) and therefore dual players Stephen Lucey and Mark O’Riordan could yet be doubly engaged.

Vitally for Limerick in the football draw, they received a home draw against Tom Cribbins side, who defeated Monaghan in round one of the qualifiers on Saturday. That Offaly win came as a shock after their heavy loss to Wexford in the Leinster championship.

Limerick and Offaly already met this season - in round three of the National Football League in Newcastle West when the Leinster side struck late to snatch a 2-10 to 1-12 victory.

The sides last met in the championship in 2002 when Liam Kearns guided Limerick to an excellent qualifier victory. Indeed ‘02 is the only season that Limerick made serious inroads via the backdoor when defeating Cavan and Offaly before losing to Mayo.

Back on July 6, 2002 Limerick were 3-9 to 2-7 winners in the Gaelic Grounds with Stephen Kelly among the goal scorers.

Kelly is one of just four players remaining from that victory and in line for a starting berth in the 2011 renewal. Joining Kelly from ‘02 are Mark O’Riordan, Stephen Lavin and Stephen Lucey.

Lucey should be back in contention for a starting role against Offaly after missing the defeat to Kerry due to a hamstring injury.

The key defender has since proven his fitness with his club and will be among the options available for Donal O’Grady when he picks his hurling team to play Wexford next Saturday (5.00). Lucey, Dave Moloney or David Breen could be options to come into defence with corner back Damien Reale likely to miss out due to a knee injury. Elsewhere on the hurling team front, teenager Declan Hannon has returned to training after his Leaving Certificate studies and is in line for his first championship appearance.

Ahead of the football tie in just over 10 days time, Limerick’s management are sweating on the fitness of midfielder Jim O’Donovan, who failed to line out with St Kierans over the weekend.

Elsewhere in the All-Ireland Qualifier draw, Meath play Galway, Down play Leitrim, Laois play Kildare, Longford play Tyrone, Armagh play Wicklow, Antrim play Carlow and London entertain Waterford.

If Limerick do advance past Offaly, they will be back in action on July 16 against one of the winners of the games listed above.

Meanwhile in the All-Ireland Feile na nGael in Galway over the weekend, Na Piarsaigh reached the under-14 hurling final in Pearse Stadium. They eventually lost to O’Loughlin Gaels of Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final.