I was fortunate to grow up in a time when Gaelic football was pleasing on the eye.
The game allowed the players with the greatest skill to shine. Then the game had a simplicity about it. That is now long gone and I fear for the long term good of this grand game. At one stage in the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday we had 27 players inside the 45 yard line and three at the opposite end of the field.
This is not new but it shows where the game is now at. Football is in a sad state where muscle is now valued above quality and unless some brave soul takes it upon himself to bring change at national level our game as we know will disappear. When the Limerick management look back on this game they will know they had chances to win it but overall Clare were the better team and are best placed to give Kerry a match in two weeks time.
In the opening ten minutes Limerick had many fine chances but some of their decision making was very poor. To me they looked like a team with little confidence and that is no surprise given that they won no game in the National League and have not won a game in the Munster championship since 2012.
Limerick football is suffering now from a lack of real work in the past. I remember writing about this many times over the years but those in power said all was grand. Well it wasn’t grand and it will be some time before they get even close to where they once were. No progress has been made over the past few years at senior level and I saw no sign of development by the management last Sunday either.
The team is playing with little vision, instead they are now struggling to do the basics of the game. The handling was poor and to me they lacked the fight I had so often praised in the Limerick senior football team.
It must be hard for this group to see a way forward. The lack of success in the league and now returning to Division 4 will make it all the harder for them to dig their way out of what is now difficult times for Limerick football. I have heard no one at County Board level question where the team is going. This is simply not good enough.
Huge amounts of money is spent preparing the senior team but in reality the return is very little. There needs to a serious mind change if people want Limerick football to be respected again. Limerick will now once again face into the football qualifiers but unless they get a weak team they have little chance of winning a game. Too much time was lost and the focus was never on developing young players in Limerick. Efforts are now been made to change that but unless it’s properly funded we have little hope going forward.
Far too many excuses have been accepted over the years and little has changed over the last three or four years. I wrote a few times about the crisis in Limerick football but overall nothing has changed and nothing will change unless we have an honest debate about the current poor state at senior and other levels.
Limerick looked stale and bereft of ideas last Sunday, they played a game that was more focused on defending than scoring. It reflected the mindset. They lacked belief and when that is the case you don’t deserve to win.
Clare came into this game as red hot favourites but they showed none of the qualities that saw them light up the league final against Kildare. They have worked very hard in the last few weeks and to me they looked a tired team.
That said I do think they will give a good account of themselves against Kerry. To Limericks credit they did work hard but when it mattered most they had little to offer in the last ten minutes of the game. The game plan was hard to watch and it must have been frustrating in the forward line as no direct ball was used. Limerick had a height advantage that was never utilised but from start to finish the slow build up killed any hope a forward had of making real progress. With three minutes left in the game Clare were leading by four points and while Limerick did make a late rally they were in earnest on their last legs at that stage in the game. Dual star Podge Collins made a telling difference when introduced and one would have to say that the Clare bench made a far greater contribution than Limerick.
Right now the morale in the Limerick dressing room has to be low. They have endured a string of defeats both in league and championship and finding the stomach for the qualifiers will be testing. Teams like Limerick need to be playing in a championship that will allow them develop and grow because right now they have no hope of matching the bigger teams in football.