SEAMUS Hickey has departed for the US and will be absent for the majority of Limerick’s Allianz Hurling League campaign.
The Murroe-Boher defender is to spend three months studying in the US and will only get to play competitive hurling if Limerick are still involved in the knockout stages of Division 2.
Prior to his departure, the defender did play in many of Limerick’s challenge games throughout January.
Hickey is one of many players that won’t be available for this Saturday’s Waterford Crystal Cup clash with Clare as John Allen makes his competitive debut as Limerick manager.
“The facts are that we are working with a panel of 38 players and at the moment we will have 22 or probably 20 players available for selection for Saturday evening,” explained John Allen this Wednesday.
Indeed hand injuries to Niall Moran and Tom Condon could limit his options further when Allen, Ciaran Carey, John Kiely and Eamonn Meskell select their first team after training on Thursday night.
“With Na Piarsaigh, Limerick IT, Seamus Hickey and two in Ethiopia (Gavin O’Mahony and Graeme Mulcahy) and injuries we will be limited with our selection,” outlined Allen.
The new Limerick management have put their paces through games against Dublin, Kerry, UCC, CIT and Na Piarsaigh but Allen is frustrated by the absence of college players for the Waterford Crystal.
“The Waterford Crystal is an inter-county competition and I think that the counties should have first call on players - the colleges have their own competition,” said the manager.
Last weekend Waterford IT played a second string team against Tipperary as their Fitzgibbon Cup game was on the horizon.
“At least they should be playing their full teams - it demeans the competition if they don’t.”
Allen and Co named a panel of 29 players but have had to call in reinforcements.
“We went up to play Dublin and between everything we had to call in people to make up the numbers,” he outlined.
While he would prefer to get his hands on his full panel for games and training, Allen is content that his net has now been cast wider.
“It slows down any tactical training that you can do when you don’t have everyone. There is no doubt that is frustrating but it is only for the month of January and by the time the league starts the Fitzgibbon Cup should be nearly over,” he explained.
“It does give a chance to lads to show how good they are. It is a learning curve for many of the young lads and for us its a great chance to see what they have to offer at inter-county level and to see if they are ready to make the step-up.”
If Limerick win on Saturday night they will progress to the semi-finals the following weekend against either UCC or Waterford.
But history is not favourable - since TJ Ryan lifted the winners trophy in 2006, Limerick have failed to win a game in the early season provincial competition, albeit the county didn’t enter on two occasions.
Given the circumstances, Allen may not be too disappointed if Limerick don’t win on Saturday, with most attention focused on February 25 when Clare come to the Gaelic Grounds for round one of the league.
“All things considered I am very pleased with the effort from all the lads and I think Limerick hurling is in a good place in terms of the potential that is in the squad. It is now down to the lads to realise that there are no short-cuts or secrets. We need to reach a certain level in terms of skill and then it’s about work rate.”