Jerome O’Connell talks to Limerick hurling manager John Allen after he got a chance to see his new team
JOHN Allen wasn’t particularly looking forward to making his competitive debut as Limerick hurling manager with a depleted squad but after almost three hours of hurling over a four day period, the Cork man was happy with “a worthwhile exercise.”
“Neither ourselves or Clare were enamoured to playing again on the Tuesday night but as it turned out we probably both learned a lot about players that might not otherwise have been on the starting 15,” John Allen told the Limerick Leader this Wednesday afternoon.
“Winning would have been a bonus and we could have won the last night - we had chances at the end that would have won it. But we had two and a half games in a four day period and that gave lads a chance to make a statement.
In total Allen and his management team of Ciaran Carey, John Kiely, Eamonn Meskell and Donach O’Donnell used 25 players in the games against Clare.
Eleven of those players had never lined out in the championship for Limerick.
“It was a great opportunity for them,” said Allen, explaining that management would be reducing their panel of 38 next week ahead of the build-up to the league.
“Our hands were tied in terms of what players we had but it did afford us a good opportunity. All in all we have played seven games since we started out and we have seen every player a number of times.”
He continued: “We brought in nine players and they played in a number of games and we will be reducing down our numbers again because rules say we can only bring 26 players to matches and there is no point having players on the panel that don’t feel they have a realistic chance of playing”.
Before Limerick and Clare renew rivalries again on February 25 in the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick will have a work-out against Waterford.
“All the time we need to keep in mind the big picture and that is about getting the best 15 or 20 players for the championship at the end of May,” said Allen.
Overall Allen remains optimistic.
“There are a lot of good young players coming on stream together in Limerick right now.”
But he warned: “It doesn’t happen overnight”.
“We have to be realistic - last year Limerick didn’t beat Waterford or Dublin in the championship and this year we have a very strong challenge in Tipperary in the Munster championship,” said Allen.
“But history dictates that Limerick are never afraid of Tipp in the championship,” he added.
“It everyone is fit and we have the 15 players we would want there is no reason why Limerick wouldn’t expect to win,” he said of the championship.
“Teams can gel together very quickly and there are a lot of good signs that everything is moving in the right direction. Teams have come along and been successful very quickly,” he pointed out.
“I think that Limerick can be as good as what is out there on any given day.”
Regulars like Donal O’Grady, Tom Condon, Wayne McNamara and scoring sensation Declan Hannon were to the fore in the games against Clare.
But it is the 11 newcomers that will probably harness most discussion and will be to the forefront of the thoughts of Allen and Co when they finalise their panel for the league.
The newcomers were Aaron Murphy, Tomas Ryan, Niall Maher, Mark Carmody, Micheal Ryan, Mike Carr, Eamonn Gleeson, Kyle Loftus, Conor Allis, Thomas Quaid and Thomas O’Callaghan - five were members of the U-21 winning side last season.
Absent for the saga with Clare were the four Na Piarsaigh players David Breen, Kevin Downes, Shane Dowling and James O’Brien.
‘College tied’ were Thomas and Seanie O’Brien, Richie McCarthy, Paul Browne, Jason Hayes and Paudie O’Brien.
Mark O’Riordan (knee) and Sean Tobin (hip) were out injured, while Seamus Hickey is currently in the US.
Hickey will be back in mid-March while both O’Riordan and Tobin will be back in full training in the near future.
Brian Geary and Niall Moran are carrying niggling injuries but will be ok for the league.
Geary saw action in both games at full forward, but the manager confirmed that he remained a defender and that his outings against Clare were only to give game-time to the long serving star.