LIMERICK hurling manager John Allen has thrown down the gauntlet to his players ahead of Sunday’s second round of action in the Allianz Hurling League.
“A huge performance is needed,” Allen told LeaderSport as his side bid to regroup after the 14-point loss to Clare.
There was much unrest among the Limerick support in the crowd of over 6,000 in the Gaelic Grounds as Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare eased to victory.
The Limerick boss said that he understands the position of the supporters, but urged patience.
“I can see the Limerick supporters side - we all want to do better.”
He explained: “There is going to be a period of time that is needed for the players that are coming from the Ardscoil Ris and Limerick U-21 teams to step-up to the physicality and intensity of senior inter-county hurling.”
“We have got the likes of Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes, the O’Brien brothers, Mark Carmody and others and they have to be allowed to do the ground work to get them up to the level of Kilkenny and Tipperary,” said Allen.
“They are very good young fellas but right now it is all about staying competitive and making progress at the same time.”
He added: “The team that is going to represent Limerick at the highest level is going to take some time to come together.”
Ahead of Sunday’s trip to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, attacking star Declan Hannon is rated as “extremely doubtful”.
The rising star missed the 14-point defeat to Clare in round one and continues to struggle with a groin problem.
The Adare man has not returned to full training with Limerick and now looks likely to miss out on Thursday when UL play UCC in the Freshers Hurling final in Mallow.
And, Limerick will be without another attacking option with Kevin Downes out with a hamstring injury.
Limerick are to wait until training on Thursday night to finalise a team.
The Limerick management were also awaiting reports from this Tuesday’s round of county U-21 hurling championship matches with a number of his panel involved with their clubs.
On top of the Hannon injury, Limerick will be without long term injury victims; Brian Geary, Mark O’Riordan and Sean Tobin, while Seamus Hickey remains abroad.
And, teenager Shane Dowling is also carrying a knock but not rated as doubtful as Hannon.
James Ryan went off injured early against Clare but is recovered from a leg injury.
“I would say Declan is extremely doubtful - he is no more than 60-40 to play and he would be a huge loss obviously,” said John Allen.
After the disappointment of the heavy loss to Clare, Allen reports a noticeable difference in training.
“We have had three fantastic nights of training - it is obvious that everything has ratcheted up a couple of notches,” explained the Limerick manager.
“I thought that training was going well anyway, but there is a difference in the past week,” said Allen.
The bookies make Limerick the 2/9 favourites with Laois available at 7/2 but John Allen has warned that the trip to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise will not be straight forward.
“I had a look at the game from last year and for the first 20 minutes or so Laois were on top. It was certainly not all one way traffic,” he explained.
Laois, now managed by former Cork dual star Teddy McCarthy, lost heavily to Offaly in round one.
“We can’t afford to lose too many more games in this league.”
With the Fitzgibbon Cup now complete, Allen now has the majority of his panel available for training.
“What I notice is that from March 1 there is just five weeks of league action and this is where is all gets serious and where we find out if players are ready to buy into it all. On the field and off the field they have to be ready to do everything that is necessary like nutrition, diet, rest and so on,” said Allen.