BACK-TO-BACK championship wins are certainly rare for Limerick football.
That’s the quest this Saturday (2.00) when Antrim come to the Gaelic Grounds in round two of the All Ireland SFC Qualifiers.
Indeed the history books show that 2011 and 2009 were the only times in the past 10-years that Limerick have put wins in succession.
The opportunity that faces Limerick this July 5 is not lost on manager John Brudair.
“When we look at the eight teams left in our side of the draw we would have to think that we can fancy ourselves against any of them, wins are achievable - Laois are a Division Two team but aside from that everyone else is from our level in the league,” outlined Brudair this week.
If his side can add an Antrim scalp to the London win they will be back in action again the following Saturday, July 12. This third round encounter would be against Laois/Wexford, Tipperary/Longford or Sligo/Wicklow with the draw to be made next Monday morning at 8.30 on RTE’s Morning Ireland.
Brudair said that home advantage is the priority in the qualifiers.
“We are delighted to be at home - in the qualifiers that is the first thing that you hope for and I think all of the teams in our section are fairly evenly balanced. Being at home means that you don’t have to get bogged down in planning the logistics or travel and all that for a few days and can concentrate on training and the opposition at hand.”
For Saturday afternoon, the bookies make Antrim the 10/11 favourites to beat Limerick.
“They had a good win over Fermanagh, who troubled us in the league and then they stayed with Donegal for about 40-minutes,” said Brudair of the Antrim challenge.
“The Donegal game was on the television and we saw that and they have quality and some standout players. They will come down feeling that can win.”
But the manager is confident that his side are still improving.
“We would be disappointed the way we left them back into the game when we looked in control and we have spoken about that,” he recalled of the London game.
But it’s the Munster SFC loss to Tipperary that is still driving Limerick to progress.
“We had a meeting after that Tipp game and there were a few home truths told but in fairness since that game everyone has put the shoulder to the wheel and everything has been going well.”
“Basic mistakes” is a term Brudair returns to time after time.
“Cutting down the basic mistakes is the key. Even in the London game when we left them back into it there were basic mistakes that gave them some easy scores,” he recalled.
But while there was plenty room for improvement from the last outing against London, there were also positives for Brudair and his management.
“Its strange to think but it was a first every championship win for a lot of the players and that experience will stand to them. It was especially important when the win came in such a tight game at the end.”
Limerick won’t name their team until after training on Thursday evening but at least two positions appear up for grabs with intense competition.
Limerick captain Seanie Buckley, will be available fir selection.
The wing forward limped out of the previous round win over London after just 15-minutes with a hamstring injury.
But the manager reports that the inspirational Dromcollogher-Broadford man is ready.
“Seanie trained on Sunday and he is ok. It was only a minor strain and the London game just came too soon for him. He picked up the injury the Sunday before the London game and it just wasn’t enough time for him to recover fully,” outlined Brudair.
“He was careful not to do bad damage and that is why he came off early in the London tie.”
Limerick will have a near 100% fully fit squad for the arrival of the Saffrons.
“U-21 player Paul White is ruled out with a knee injury but all others in the 31-man panel will be available.
To-date Limerick have used 24-players with a remarkable ten making their championship debuts - eight as starters.
The Limerick debutantes are Sean O’Dea, Colm Moran, Micheal Brosnan, Cian Sheehan, Eoin Hanrahan, Danny Neville, Killian Phair, Darragh Treacy, Gearoid Hegarty and Jamie Lee.
Division Four league side Antrim are managed by Liam ‘Baker’ Bradley.
Key men for the northern side will be Kevin Niblock, Tomas McCann, Mike Sweeney, Conor Murray, and Sean McVeigh.
Limerick started well against London dominated possession as they looked good on the forward foot.
Ian Ryan was in fine form but will need help in the forward unit this time round against an Antrim side that were defensively strong for periods of their Ulster SFC semi-final loss to Donegal.
Consistency is an issue for Limerick and only something close to 70-minutes of concentration will see Limerick continue on the qualifier route.