ANY slim hope that Limerick had of promotion to Division 1A of the National hurling league next year was halted last Sunday when Wexford took a mighty step forward to beat Galway.
By any standards this was a major win for Wexford but more over for Davy Fitzgerald who is only in charge a few months.
This win and for sure promotion by Wexford puts into focus the tame efforts Limerick have applied over many years.
Limerick are paying the price in may ways and we are now well off the pace of the top teams. Anyone that had a choice of managing either Wexford or Limerick might well have chosen the latter but the Fitzgerald factor has played a key role in turning Wexford around.
I remember some years ago discussing Fitzgerald with a former Limerick hurler and he made the point that, “Davy has a lot of learning done both in good days and bad and that will stand to him.” He has put many of those lessons into practice in Wexford.
Limerick have remaining games against Offaly, Laois and Galway to look forward to but the most important thing they can do now is to start getting their ducks in a row.
The management need to settle the team and that needs to happen pretty soon. For me it’s all about championship now.
With the greatest respect to Offaly and Laois very little will be learned here. The Galway game offers the chance to see where we are at. The team needs to be well settled by then.
A win here and a place in the league quarter final will be on offer. With all of the games Limerick have played I am not so sure the management have settled on any formation.
As I have said in recent weeks there are many gaps in the Limerick senior team. Some players have got a number of games in defence but I am not so sure they will survive in the heat of championship. The spine of the team is no where near sorted and until we see some solidity here the chances of advancement looks slim.
Filling key positions play a key role in getting the balance right in a team. One such position is centre back and despite all the games to date Limerick still have not fixed on a player for this role.
Declan Hannon looked like he could take hold of number six but that looks less likely now. Seamus Hickey has played a couple of games here also but he is not at all suited to this position.
As it stands Limerick don’t appear to have many in the current set up capable of being a commanding figure in this important position.
I have before suggested that Nicky Quaid be tried at centre back. What would be wrong with playing him there against Offaly, Laois and Galway?
What is the worst that could happen? He plays this position with his club and with good wing men beside him it might go some way towards building a much needed foundation for the team.
Losing in Wexford was a major blow to the development of the team. I credited the management that they took the chance in starting so many young players but was it too many?
Getting the mix right is very important at this level. I don’t think Limerick have managed to do this up to now. Settling the team could be the most important thing the management do now.
Let it be right or wrong but there comes a time when you have to place trust in lads.
They need to have a fair degree of the championship team going out against Galway. For sure Galway are hurting after losing to Wexford last Sunday. That was a huge blow to them.
Despite that they are still viewed as a serious championship team. In that regard Limerick need to see their players tested against Galway. They need to know where they stand. They need to see how many of those young lads will cope under pressure.
Galway have a long wait for the Leinster championship and for that reason they will come to the Gaelic Grounds to secure a league quarter final spot.
I am sure the management of the team had a target of gaining promotion from Division 1B of the league. That target is gone now.
They had a chance of setting the agenda in Wexford but left it slip. The price is heavy but they will need to move on from that now.
I am hearing that the league could be changed but either way Limerick need to focus on the job in hand now.
There comes a time when you have to stop trying lads. Some of them have got a fair bit of game time and that in itself is good but if you don’t see improvement over the course of a few games then it’s time to look elsewhere.
That of course applies to both new and older players. I said when this management team took over that waiting for the second year to make hard calls would cause them problems. To their credit they are giving younger players a real chance.
They have placed a lot of trust in some of the younger players but are they trying too many of them at the same time?
The real cost of not playing in Division 1A can be seen in the crowds attending these games.
This results in a major loss of funds to Limerick County Board. I was in Ennis last Sunday for the Clare v Kilkenny contest and one would have to be impressed by Clare.
Winning by thirteen points tells its own story and even at this early stage they looked like a team going in the right direction. Limerick play Clare in the Munster semi final. The prize for the winners is huge. A place in the final and a quarter final of the All Ireland secured.
The league will be well forgotten and the target for year secured if they overcome Clare in the championship.
Aaron Gillane is a player I have mentioned on many occasions on this page.
The Patrickswell young lad had a superb year with his club last year and is showing no sign of slack in 2017.
It was a surprise that he was left go from the Limerick senior panel in recent weeks but to his credit he is showing superb form with Mary I in the Fitzgibbon Cup. Last week he scored 2-10 against NUIG and in the last two games has a grand total of 5-19.
That’s some scoring and while he is not yet the finished article I find it hard to believe he is not part of the Limerick panel.
These are the type of players we need to develop and spending time in such company is the right place for a player like Aaron Gillane. He will be in action again this weekend as his college head to Galway for the semi finals and finals of the Fitzgibbon Cup.