THE power base in Limerick hurling has very much shifted towards the city and its environs.
The results from 2016 confirm that and with all of the major titles resting in the City Division. Clubs such as Patrickswell, Na Piarsaigh, Monaleen and Mungret enjoyed a great year and given the player base they are working from it looks like they will have good days into the future.
Clubs in rural areas have lost many players since the economic down turn and that has put real pressure when it comes to fielding teams. Na Piarsaigh might not have won the senior title this year but the supply line is still very strong.
Winning titles at minor, U21 and junior confirms that this club is in a very strong position going forward. Winning the junior title was very important for the club as the move to Intermediate level will provide a competitive platform for their young players.
Na Piarsaigh had a good year in senior football but clubs that have tried to compete in both codes have suffered in the longer term. One would expect to see a great deal of hunger in Na Piarsaigh senior hurlers in 2017.
Patrickswell have won many senior hurling titles but anyone that saw the joy on their faces after this years title witnessed just how important the win was for the club. They have been coming for the past few years.
They were on the verge last year but that defeat provided much education for many of their young players. As a unit Patrickswell developed a lot during the past year but one would feel there is a bit more in them. The senior hurling championship will be competitive in 2017.
It was a special year for Barry Foley that saw him win his seventh senior medal. He has shown great leadership and loyalty and the younger players on the team looked up to him. Gary Kirby was manager of Patrickswell and what service he has given both on and off the field.
Many of the bigger clubs will feel they didn’t get the best from themselves this year. It could have been an even better year for Patrickswell, they played much the better hurling against Glenrovers of Cork but lost their way in the final minutes.
Closing out games has sometimes been a problem for them but the experience of the match should have taught them a few lessons. Winning meant a lot to Patrickswell this year. Many of the greats of the past took huge pride in it.
Hurling is a way of life and the club plays a very important part in the community. The club has big plans for the future from a development point of view and it’s safe to say the stable of winners wont be far away either.
Monaleen took a major step forward when they won the Premier Intermediate hurling title. They were very impressive in the entire championship and the move to senior ranks next year should suit the young crop of players coming through at this club.
Football has been prominent as far as results for the club for a number of years but a core group of hurling people never stopped working at underage level.
They were rewarded with the win this year. The club has some good minors coming through and many of them will be part of the Limerick minor hurling panel.
Indeed over the past few years Monaleen has produced a lot of players that have served the county well at underage.
Muiris Gavin has put in a major effort as manager of the senior football team. Such efforts were rewarded when they overcame Drom/Broadford in the senior football final. The club lost out to the Cork champions in the Munster club but on the day they had enough play to win that game.
Monaleen managed successfully to balance hurling and football this year but that might be a great deal more difficult at senior level. The challenge facing the club from a hurling point of view next year is make sure they hold onto senior status.
They will need a couple of years to develop young players at this level. As a club Monaleen have very good structures in place and quality people have played a key part in driving the club forward.
Few clubs in Limerick produce as many players as Mungret and from a club point of view they needed to win this years Intermediate championship. They have a strong foundation and good facilities but winning an adult title was key for this club going forward.
They have always produced good players but all too often many of them were lost before the age of twenty. Brian Tobin and Brian Begley have given outstanding service to Mungret.
Both of these players kept ploughing away during many bad days and it was great to see them around to enjoy this years win. Brian Tobin was a superb player at underage and played with Limerick at all grades.
I think he had more to offer Limerick at senior level but never got a real opportunity to progress. Brian Begley brought the love of gaelic games from the cradle and for years he severed his club and Limerick.
Mungret now move onto Premier Intermediate and that will provide a window for many of their young players to develop. The club has a major population around them and that should see them with a strong supply of players in the years ahead.
Add to that the building of new secondary and national schools and you can see the future looks good for the club. Having strong numbers will bring its own challenges and how it’s managed will be very important.
Many people have put in a huge effort over lean years to foster the love of gaelic games in Mungret but those efforts were rewarded this year and it looks like the base is in really good shape for the coming years.
It’s great to see clubs making progress. We need more clubs to challenge and that will add major strength to the entire organisation in Limerick. With a strong player base in clubs the better the chances Limerick have of winning Munster and All Ireland titles in the future.
Every sporting organisation around the city is looking to hoover up young players but parents will support and encourage the organisation that is looking after their children best. The GAA has a strong and impressive record of looking after its young players and the numbers playing the games are now at an all time high.
City based clubs will always have a few more struggles than those in the country. On the evidence of what we have seen this year the Limerick City Division have enjoyed outstanding success. If they can manage to build on that then Limerick GAA will be very well served in the future.