LIMERICK begin their Allianz Football League campaign against Sligo in Newcastle West on Sunday knowing that a win is crucial in their battle to maintain their Division 3 status for another season.
John Brudair and his management are operating off a considerably depleted and inexperienced panel at present and with only three home games (one of them against last year’s All Ireland quarter-finalists Armagh), getting points on the board early would be a massive bonus. But it’s not going to be easy. As well as being without the recently-retired John Galvin, Limerick must also do without the services of key forwards Ian Ryan, Ger Collins and Eoin Hanrahan while Mark O’Riordan, Pa Ranahan, Stephen Lucey, Paudie Aherne, John Mullane and Ballysteen’s James O’Meara are also unavailable.
Ryan, Lucey, Aherne and Mullane are currently recovering from injury while the others mentioned above haven’t committed to the panel for the time being. Indeed Limerick face something of an attacking crisis as the loss of experienced and proven forwards like Ryan and Collins has been made worse by the unavailability of St Patrick’s duo Hanrahan and Mullane. Hanrahan had an impressive debut season last year while Mullane, despite struggling with injury, was impressive on his club’s march to the Limerick senior football decider last year and has lined out for Limerick in a number of big games in the past.
Brudair has augmented his panel with 12 of this year’s U-21 setup while he can still call on the likes of the experienced and ever-reliable Seanie Buckley, Johnny McCarthy and Paudie Browne.
The progress of Gearoid Hegarty will be interesting to observe while Iain Corbett and Darragh Treacy are two of the younger players who will be forced to accelerate their development too.
Limerick played Sligo away in last year’s opening game where they were only narrowly beaten but they mixed the good with the bad thereafter, going down to a couple of heavy defeats but doing enough to stay up. The championship that followed wasn’t much better as a heavy loss to Tipperary in the Munster championship was followed by a rather uninspired run in the qualifiers.
With the exception of Armagh, there is little Limerick should fear in Division 3 but a good start is hugely important with away games to follow against Tipperary, Louth, Wexford and Fermanagh as well as that home game against Armagh and against Clare in the penultimate round.
The Limerick footballers have been renowned for their battling spirit over the years and they’ll need to show it all once again this season.
No better place to start than on Sunday in Newcastle West.
2015 LIMERICK SENIOR FOOTBALL PANEL: Paudie Aherne (Kilteely-Dromkeen), Denis Aherne (Kilteely-Dromkeen), Sean Barrett (Bruff), Michael Brosnan (Dromcollogher-Broadford), Paudie Browne (Fr Casey’s), Robert Browne (Fr Casey’s), Seanie Buckley (Dromcollogher-Broadford), Thomas Butler (Feohanagh-Castlemahon), Iain Corbett (Newcastle West), Stephen Cahill (Mountcollins), Daniel Daly (Fr Casey’s), Cillian Fahey (Dromcollogher-Broadford), Gearoid Hegarty (St Patrick’s), Jamie Lee (Newcastle West), Thomas Lee (Ballylanders), Stephen Lucey (Croom), Mike Lyons (Adare), Johnny McCarthy (St Kieran’s), Tony McCarthy (Kildimo-Pallaskenry), Colm Moran (Monaleen), Pakie Moran (Ballysteen), Jason Mullins (St Patrick’s), John Mullane (St Patrick’s), Peter Nash (Kildimo-Pallaskenry), James Naughton (St Senan’s), Danny Neville (Ballysteen), Garrett Noonan (Dromcollogher-Broadford), Sean O’Dea (Kilteely-Dromkeen), Denis O’Dea (Kilteely-Dromkeen), William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh), James O’Meara (Fr Casey’s), John O’Riordan (Fr Casey’s), Donal O’Sullivan (Monaleen), Killian Phair (Dromcollogher-Broadford), Ian Ryan (St Senan’s), Brian Scanlon (Gerald Griffins), Cian Sheehan (Newcastle West), Chris Smyth (Fr Casey’s), Darragh Treacy (St Kieran’s), David Ward (Fr Casey’s)