Limerick hurlers and footballer bid to hijack Wexford party

Jerome O’Connell

Reporter:

Jerome O’Connell

Shane Dowling, Limerick, in action against Matthew O'Hanlon, left, and Richie Kehoe, Wexford in last year's All Ireland SHC quarter final
LIMERICK bid to ruin the Wexford GAA party this Sunday.

LIMERICK bid to ruin the Wexford GAA party this Sunday.

The hurlers and footballers from Shannonside make the 230-mile round trip to the south east on Sunday for a Allianz League double-header.

Both the Limerick senior hurlers and footballers need victories for different reasons - TJ Ryan’s men continue on their promotion push, while John Brudair’s side are battling relegation.

Sunday’s double-header will see Wexford GAA officially begin their new partnership with Innovate, who have securing the naming right to the Model County’s GAA grounds, which are now to be known as Innovate Wexford Park.

On the field the hurling tie has a 12.45 start while the football will begin at 2.30.

HURLING

NOTHING but victory will keep Limerick’s promotion push on track.

TJ Ryan’s hurlers are edging ever closer to a full squad with David Breen, Declan Hannon and Seanie Tobin all back in full training for the Division 1B campaign.

Hannon and Tobin were used as substitutes against Antrim two weeks ago, while Breen hasn’t played since getting injured in mid-January.

The return to full fitness of the attacking trio means that Limerick will have a man of 25 for the trip to Wexford.

Ruled out injured is Kevin Downes, while Kilmallock quartet Gavin O’Mahony, Paudie O’Brien, Graeme Mulcahy and Barry Hennessy are absent as they are on the final countdown to their March 17 All Ireland club final with Kilmallock.

In the two league games to-date (Waterford and Antrim) Limerick have given league starts to 19 different players, while a further five have been introduced as subs. Just three of Sunday’s panel are yet to see league action - David Breen, Aaron Murphy and Thomas O’Brien.

Sunday’s game is the first of three guaranteed successive weekend’s of Division 1B action for Limerick with home games to come against Offaly (March 14) and Laois (March 22) as the Shannonsiders bid to end five years outside of the top flight of league hurling.

Victory on Sunday would already ensure Limerick a place in the quarter-finals of the league proper on Sunday March 29 - the top four in Division 1B play the top four in Division 1A.

The bookies make Limerick the 4/5 favourites to win against Liam Dunne’s Model County.

But Wexford won’t give away anything easy in their home patch with memories of last Summer’s heavy All Ireland SHC Qualifier loss no doubt still vivid for the Leinster side who are current Division 1B table-toppers.

The Limerick’s defence and midfield that lined out in Antrim looked strong so when TJ Ryan and selectors announce their line-up much attention will focus on the formation of the attack with options aplenty as players return from injury enforced lay-offs.

FOOTBALL

THE Limerick footballers still have four games remaining but all concerned are well aware that points are necessary to stave off relegation.

That quest starts Sunday against another of the counties battling to avoid the drop to the basement division.

Victory against bottom side Wexford on Sunday would go a long way towards securing Limerick’s status for another season.

New-look Limerick have used 25 players in their three league encounters - eight of those players are new to inter-county senior football.

The new-look panel comes on the back of the absence of key players for 2015 with John Galvin, Pa Ranahan, Mark O’Riordan, Ger Collins and Eoin Hanrahan all unavailable for different reasons.

Preparations for the Wexford clash are taking place hand-in-hand with the countdown to the Munster U-21 football championship, where Limerick play Cork in the Gaelic Grounds on Wednesday March 11.

“We are after two great workouts and its only if we bring stuff learned in those games to Wexford that it should help us,” said Limerick manager John Brudair.

“We have always had Wexford as a key game for us - it’s an away trip but against a team who we reckon we can go toe-to-toe with and should be expecting to win.”

The manager added: “Taking two defeats in a row will test our character and spirit but I think next Sunday will be the litmus test especially if we get the result we think is achievable”.

Limerick were beaten by 13-points last Sunday but Armagh but Brudair was realistic about the result.

“The margin was very disappointing,” he said.

“The problem for us at the moment and we are very realistic about it - we are struggling to get scores. We did a lot of good things leading up to that area but we just got to starting getting into situations where we can nail those chances. It’s very frustrating working so hard and then not executing,” he sighed.

“It’s a learning curve and we are probably after playing the best two teams (Tipperary and Armagh) in the divisions. Today we acquitted ourselves reasonably well in the first half but we just need to make it last for a full game. We were solid enough in terms of out defensive set-up in the first half and from that aspect it was good to hold a team of Armagh’s quality with a small score count in the first half,” said John Brudair.