SEAMUS Hickey will be confirmed among the Limerick substitutes for Saturday’s All-Ireland hurling championship qualifiers.
“Job done,” he said with a smile that acknowledged it hadn’t been the most stressful of championship outings ever.
He added: “It was a game that was a rite of passage for us”.
And, that’s exactly what it was - a stepping stone to the next round and the first of two wins that are necessary to return Limerick to the serious end of the All-Ireland championship and a chance to get the win over some of the big guns. And, it’s that opportunity that his side craves and indeed needs to take if real progress is to be made in 2012.
WHAT DID WE LEARN FROM THE LAOIS GAME?
THE easy answer would be that there was nothing to be learned from hitting Laois for 27 scores.
But there-in lies the first positive. No one likes to see any side on the receiving end of a heavy beating but at the end of the day every score registered instilled another little bit of confidence into the Limerick players. In all 10 different players got on the scoresheet and while many of the scores came all too easily, they still have to be finished.
It’s often enough that poor finishing cost Limerick victory so there can be no argument against some target practise.
Games with tight finishes have not gone the way of Limerick in recent times and John Allen in particular has bemoaned a lack of a killer instinct in varying games this year.
Even after scoring six championship goals for the first time since 1989, Allen pointed out a number of times that players could have been more ruthless.
“What can I say about the game – it was very one sided from very early and it’s hard to analyse whats good about the game but I suppose we did score 6-21,” said Allen after the game.
“It was the first game that we have played this year that was true knockout – we were out if we lost,” said the manager.
“We were in a totally different position to the last time where we were hot favourites tonight and it was interesting to see how we dealt with that,” said Allen.
There were two enforced changes to the starting team with Conor Allis and Kevin Downes ruled out through injury and with the resulting changes and with a full compliment of substitutes, it means that Limerick have used given championship match time to 23 players and still to come into contention will be Seamus Hickey.
“Like the last day we had a number of players missing and it gave us a chance to see other players and I suppose over the 70 minutes we used our 20 players. It was good to see fellas playing championship because when push came to shove the last day against Tipp we were a bit unsure whether the players were ready because they didn’t have experience,” said Allen.
He added: “But at least now we have seen them at inter-county championship level”.
“There is something you can learn all the time – there was certainly facets of our play in the first half that I wouldn’t be too pleased with – we didn’t push-on when we had the possession and we probably should have taken them on a bit more and opened them up because we were well capable
“We threw a fair few balls into space when there was no one inside there. I wouldn’t have been too pleased with the first 10-minutes of the second half when we were a bit dead but I was happy that we finished stronger than we have in the last few games because it seemed that we were not finishing strongly,” explained Allen, who was getting his first championship with Limerick.
WHAT IS THE STORY WITH injuries?
JOHN Allen, John Kiely, Eamonn Meskell and Donach O’Donnell would have a real headache if a full 29-man panel was at their disposal.
The Limerick team will be announced after training this Thursday evening and Hannon could be very close to a starting place.
The good news is that Seamus Hickey will be back in the squad - he won’t start but will be available for introduction from the subs bench.
However, Kevin Downes won’t be available for selection after a slight knock ruled him out of the Laois game. He picked up the injury almost two weeks ago in a training game against the county U-21 side and remains sidelined as he failed to train this Tuesday night.
Tom Condon and Sean Tobin carried knocks into the Laois game and it was a welcome luxury that they could be withdrawn in the second half.
Paul Browne picked up a leg injury and again the one-sided nature of the game allowed the midfielder to be rested immediately and he returned to training this week.
BRIAN GEARY AT 11. WHAT’S THAT ABOUT?
Barring a run of injuries, Brian Geary will not be centre forward on July 14 (assuming Limerick beat Antrim).
The surprise inclusion of the Monaleen man was simply, management looking at options with an eye down the line.
“When we analysed the league final and the Tipp game we certainly had a problem with 10-15 minutes to go and we were not simply winning enough ball in the half forward line,” explained John Allen.
“We lost a huge amount of puckouts in them two games - we felt Brian Geary is a very experienced player and very good in the air and we would have a look at him centre forward and I think he did quiet well,” said Allen.
“He is very clever and very quick to see whats happening. We wanted to see what options we have when it comes to a game when there is a bit more pressure on and can we use someone of his experience as someone who would win the ball when we need to win it,” outlined Allen.
IS DECLAN HANNON back to his best?
The cheer that greeted the arrival of Hannon when introduced as a sub said it all.
He scored a monster point six minutes after arriving and another six minutes from the end.
But it was his movement, pace and vision to set-up Limerick’s third goal that displayed the extra dimension he brings to the team.
There is no doubting he is still short of match sharpness but fingers crossed his injury nightmare is behind him.
CAN ANTRIM test LIMERICK
JOHN Allen summed it up best: “If we play to our potential I have no doubt that we are well capable of taking Antrim”.
Allen added: “I didn’t see the game last year but saw the highlights but Antrim did quiet well against Limerick. Antrim would certainly be better than this Laois side, I have no doubt about that”.
Laois had two training sessions ahead of last weekend and while Antrim preparations should be better, management upheaval doesn’t suggest a smooth operation.
Indeed former Limerick trainer Jerry Wallace left, returned and has again left!
Limerick will win but mentally they need to be ready as they were against Laois and a good start is necessary to kill off any thoughts of an Antrim shock.
Then Limerick will be back where they need to be - a July 14 date, at a neutral venue, against the winning side from Clare and Dublin or Cork and Offaly.