WHEN Limerick take to the field in Cusack Park in Ennis on Saturday evening (7.00) they will carry no inhabitations into the Munster SFC quarter final against Clare.
There’s a sense about this 2015 panel that it’s a new dawn for Limerick senior football.
Perhaps it’s the innocence of youth but they have shown no fear this season, undaunted as the barrier continually got higher. A lesser group of players would have crumbled under the threat of relegation on the back of four successive defeats. But not John Brudair’s men. The emotion and sense of relief and pride at the final whistle in Drogheda when league status was secured was as good as a few week’s training in terms of the development of this new-look panel.
But now the next step is for a Munster championship victory. Some were involved in All Ireland Qualifier wins over London and Antrim last year but the list of newcomers has increased greatly this season.
While they lack experience, they undoubtedly make up for that with enthusiasm.
Management set out their stall on entering the job and bit by bit have unearthed fresh talent with an open door policy to anyone who feels they have something to offer. Even in recent weeks new faces have appeared on the scene and will be in the match-day panel of 26 in Cusack Park.
But for all the work and preparation and sense of optimism, a Munster championship victory is necessary. Especially when your opponents are seen as an equal. A June 14 semi final in Pairc Ui Rinn against Cork would be real progress for Limerick.
Although the bookmakers make Clare favourites to face The Rebels, Limerick shouldn’t fear Clare. Especially if reports from The Banner are accurate that top forwards David Tubridy and Shane McGrath are ruled out. There was much pre-season hype surrounding Clare football with 100% commitment to their cause by former All Ireland hurling champions; Podge and Sean Collins, Cathal McInerney, Alan O’Neill and Davy O’Halloran. On top of that was the recruitment of Pat Burke, who plays his club football in Dublin.
But their net return in the league was similar to Limerick. Indeed Limerick won the Shannonside derby in Newcastle West with a top class second half performance.
Both teams will be along similar lines this Saturday evening and therefore Limerick can take great confidence to Ennis. Of course the defeat will offer Clare motivation for revenge, while further confidence will be gained from their championship win in the Gaelic Grounds just two years ago.
But Limerick are now much changed. Brian Scanlon is between the posts and of course also offer scores from long range frees.
In front of him is a new-look defence that will miss the now departed Paudie Browne. Only time will tell how vital his absence will be. Cillian Fahy assumes the no6 jersey and be joined by fellow U-21s Stephen Cahill and Sean O’Dea. One of the success stories of the year so far will be in the no4 jersey - 28 year old Robert Browne, who is one of five starting a Munster SFC game for the first time.
In the middle third Limerick can prosper with Gearoid Hegarty, Tom Lee, Darragh Treacy, Seanie Buckley and John Riordan kick-out targets. Their possession needs to be swift to the attack where Ian Ryan and Peter Nash will carry the threat.
Former wing back Pa Ranahan will be the link between defence and attack at centre forward and can open up the Clare rearguard with diagonal balls.
With youth on board, Limerick will need to settle early and if so can prevail to reach a Munster semi final against Cork in Pairc Ui Rinn on June 14