See this weekend’s Limerick Leader for our special 16-page supplement previewing the county senior and intermediate hurling championships.
JUST 13 weeks ago Na Piarsaigh’s glorious season came to an end in Dublin’s Parnell Park when they were beaten by eventual All-Ireland club champions Loughgiel Shamrocks.
This weekend’s lift-off for the Limerick’s Live 95FM sponsored county senior hurling championship leaves the first time county champions with little time to rest on their laurels with pretenders to their crown lining up behind the Caherdavin club.
This 16-page supplement casts an eye over all contenders for the Daly Cup from newcomers Effin to perennial contenders like Kilmallock, Adare, Ahane and Patrickswell. We pick out the best players, the young lads to keep an eye on and we go back in time to see what former player each club would most like to have involved now.
And, that’s not forgetting the 16 clubs that set out in search of intermediate glory in an effort to join the hierarchy of club hurling in 2013.
Among those profiled are Bruree’s Shaun Riordan and Murroe-Boher’s Kevin Tobin.
Followers of South Liberties will enjoy archive pictures and memories of their county championship success of 40 years ago when they beat Patrickswell to end an 82 year famine. And while Patrickswell were disappointed on that occasion, we have some great pictures from their 1982 success ten years later.
There are also predictions aplenty with our panel of ‘experts’ pushed to name their winners and losers of 2012.
Both the senior and intermediate championships have a format change this season, which should work to make all three rounds of group games most competitive.
The top two teams in all groups will move directly to the championship quarter-finals.
Those finishing in third place will take part in the semi-finals of the respective County Cups.
Therefore only the sides finishing bottom of each group will be involved in the relegation play-offs.
It is a championship that starts without some household names with Ollie Moran and Mark Foley both retiring from club duty after long careers with club and county.
Indeed champions Na Piarsaigh are setting out without two of their stalwarts with Shane O’Neill and Damien Quigley yet to return after their extended run through 2011.
Once again there is a strong Clare influence to the club management teams across the county.
As has been the scenario for the last number of years, almost half of the clubs have opted to cross the river Shannon to Clare in search of a trainer/coach - Sean Stack, Tony Considine, Ger O’Loughlin, Brian Lohan, Liam Doyle, Sean Nehir and Brian Kennedy.
Bruree have former Waterford selector Pat Bennett, while Croom have former Galway selector Sean Treacy on board as evidence that winning a county senior title very much remains the hottest ticket in town.
But there can only be one winner and most will select Na Piarsaigh or Kilmallock with a host of others in the chasing group behind the champions of the last two years.
The county intermediate championship is nearly more competitive than its senior counterpart.
Monaleen have also looked towards Clare with Alan Dunne of St Flannan’s fame at the helm while other coaches of note in the IHC are Gary Kirby, Leo O’Connor, Natal O’Grady, Frank Houlihan, Vinny Foley, Alan Browne and Clem Smith.
It’s going to be a long road but let the games commence and may the best teams win out next October.