Championship Column - Limerick need to find form fast

Limerick hurling manager TJ Ryan
In this week’s Championship Matters column, Steven Miller says the Limerick hurlers need to find a big performance from somewhere.

In this week’s Championship Matters column, Steven Miller says the Limerick hurlers need to find a big performance from somewhere.

If ever a team needed to find form - and fast - it’s the Limerick hurlers.

This Saturday their season is on the line - a straight knockout championship game against a Dublin side that beat them off the field the last time they met in the league quarter-final. Win and Limerick will be in an All Ireland quarter-final against Galway or Waterford with a slight bit of momentum behind them. Lose and there will be any amount of potential consequences: retirements, resignations and the usual Limerick recriminations.

Limerick’s level of performance right through the 2014 championship was consistent and of a standard to compete with the best. This year it hasn’t. Nowhere close.

Limerick have struggled for form all season. Against Waterford in the opening round of the league they had a patched-up team and managed a draw. They lost to Offaly at home, struggled past Wexford away and did just enough to beat Antrim in Ballycastle and Laois in Kilmallock. Then, in Croke Park, they put in an abject display and were destroyed by Dublin.

Since then they have beaten Clare but been battered by Tipperary. Sunday’s win over Westmeath didn’t answer any questions either. For all the excitement the win over Clare created, and for a brief spell early in the second half against Tipp, there’s no escaping Limerick’s poor form this year - in league and championship.

And even that win over Clare comes with an asterisk. Clare were coming off a league season where they had won just one game and been relegated. They hadn’t won a championship game since the 2013 All Ireland final and were reduced to 14 men before half time. Their confidence was poor and so was their form. But if Pat Donnellan hadn’t stupidly lashed out at Donal O’Grady in that schemozzle, could Clare have won? Even so we don’t know yet know where Clare stand as their return to winning ways was against a dreadful Offaly team that couldn’t get within 20 points of them. Indeed Offaly and Westmeath are the two worst teams in this year’s championship and the gap between them isn’t as wide as you’d think.

Despite Limerick’s shallow panel, there’s no line of the field that hasn’t been meddled with. On Sunday against Westmeath, Limerick had some old elements and some new. They have yet to click though.

Limerick could still reach an All Ireland semi-final - most likely against Kilkenny again - but to do so they need to recapture the form and buzz that they had all last summer.

There has to be a kick in this group of players at some stage. Let’s hope it’s this weekend.

Football shows its value again with classic clash

Gaelic football can get a hard time - mostly from hurling snobs and retired and disgruntled former players/pundits - but Sunday’s game between Cork and Kerry in the championship was an absolute belter and the best game in either code so far this year.

It showed once again that when the top teams in the country play each other that they generally produce excellent games.

The biggest problem football has is that too often we have games between teams of vastly different standards or games between two teams that are not much good in the first place.

A changed structure where we are guaranteed more ties between the top teams would give us more games and occasions like last Sunday.

Who doesn’t want that?