THE football championship of 2013 won’t be remembered fondly by anyone connected with Limerick.
Twelve months later, the new Limerick set-up is vastly changed but the personal pain is still evident in many - Tom Lee included.
“There are bad memories from last year - I really want to put that in the back of my head but in saying that we have to learn from it. Cork ran through us, it was terrible. Longford was another disaster. For me personally - I think I got taken off at half time in the two games, I might have been out of position, I don’t think I am a centre forward,” he recalled.
“It was just a poor campaign after a dogfight in the league and all the pressure to get up into Division Three. We had our day out in Croke Park but whatever it was in the championship we just didn’t show up,” outlined the Ballylanders man.
But Lee is confident that this Saturday will be different.
There is one main reason, according to the Galway native.
“Massive competition is the main thing in the camp this year.”
He explains: “In my own position, John Galvin, Darragh Treacy, Gearoid Hegarty and myself are all fighting for the same positions and that’s the same across the board from corner back to corner forward. It’s a huge thing this year that there is a good bit of bite in training and hopefully that will bring us on”.
“I am fairly nervous this year and I think in my four or five years here I was confident enough. It’s a good nervous because it pushes me on and it pushes Darragh and John and Gearoid - healthy competition. I played six games in the league and then lost out in the last game against Cavan with a niggle and Darragh Treacy came in and he has been flying since and then we have John Galvin coming back.”
“I am looking over my shoulder and thinking this is really the first time that I have to up my performance if I am to get a run out. I know it’s a 20-man game, especially with the black cards but this year the pressure is on,” explained Lee at the Limerick football press briefing beneath the City End terrace in the Gaelic Grounds.
The arrival of the fresh faces has also made Lee more aware of the importance of senior progress.
“If the underage teams don’t see us winning Munster championship games they are not going to aspire to be like us. There is a huge responsibilty on us to kick-on. There are young lads coming up - we need to make football more attractive to young lads in the county, there is a huge onus on us,” he stressed.
The bookies make Tipperary the slight favourites but Lee is undaunted.
“They were Division Four - I know they won it and are coming with momentum but we are Division Three. We should be aiming to be in Division Two and keep going and getting better. We don’t want to be there - we want to push on.”
Indeed Lee’s welcomes the chance to avoid the two powerhouses of the province in round one.
“I think personally I don’t want to play Cork or Kerry in the first round. I would prefer to play Tipperary, Clare or Waterford - it eases you into championship and that is probably the wrong thing to say but it might give you momentum if you get a win,” said Lee.
“This is why we are training all year - slogging it in the wet and wind. This is what it comes down to and it is everything. The league is very important but it does come down to championship.”