Limerick will be part of tomorrow morning's draw
GOOD hurling and hot weather go hand and hand and it looks like this summer is offering something we have been missing for some years.
The hurling year has really opened up and right now it would be a brave man or woman that would call the All Ireland winner in September.
Cork have lit the championship up and the most telling aspect of their hurling has been the progress of some of their young players. Over the past few years we have seen many poor games but thankfully it looks like the best of the hurling is yet to come.
The hurling draw will take place next Monday and that will be the start of a few crucial weeks for many top teams. For sure some big teams will not make the quarter finals but from a Limerick point of view it’s the stage we need to be on.
Morale has not been good since losing to Clare in the semi final and who they meet in the opening round of the qualifiers will be hugely important. If the draw falls kindly for them they are back on the championship road.
Limerick have ground to make up and they will need to improve greatly from the Clare game. The return of some injured players will add strength to the team and it might also be the time to make some serious adjustments..
I think that Limerick know at this stage that they might well have got it wrong by not making a few major calls last winter. The lack of not making those calls came back to haunt them in the opening round of the Munster championship but they really have to go for it now.
They must have a real go regardless of who they play. They need to back themselves to make the changes. Some people have said to me that they won't do that because, by doing so, they will have admitted they got it wrong in the first place. It would be much better to make the calls now. Do not wait until the championship journey ends. They have a big chance to not only see what some of the players are made of but more important at this stage to get Limerick right for 2018.
The hurling championship of 2017 has more shocks in place and opportunities could be just around the corner for Limerick. I think if they make a few changes and with Diarmuid Brynes and Gearoid Hegarty on the way back they still have something to offer this years championship.
Supporters want to see them battle, they want to see them hurling as if their lives depend on it. Limerick always had that by the bucket full but for some strange reason it has disappeared for the last few years. The management have a big part to play in restoring that but the players themselves also have to take responsibility and ownership for what happens on the field.
I have a fear that Limerick could be left behind in the hurling world again. We have shown great promise and we have a player base but unless we take a step forward soon we might once again have missed the bus.
Cork are on the march, Tipperary will never be too far away. Clare are strong and have youth also on their side while the likes of Galway, Kilkenny and Waterford will always be close to the centre of the arena.
We need to stop looking for excuses and words such as “young team” won’t wash. Just look at young Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon from Cork. The Limerick management have given some players championship starts this year but they might want to place their trust in some more. Some players are struggling and the question is, should the management drop them now or give them one last chance?
The question the Limerick management must answer is what is best for Limerick hurling? If they answer that in an honest way then I would expect to see some changes for whoever Limerick meet in the opening round of the qualifiers. Right now it’s hard to see Limerick making the quarter finals if they play anywhere near the type of hurling we saw against Clare.
Quite simply, unless Limerick get the basics right their hurling season will be over very quickly. Management and players are working hard but something is not right. I don’t think they bought into whatever type of game they were hoping to bring to Thurles. It didn’t work and change will be required to make progress.
Every line on the team will need attention but the management will know that. They saw it for themselves against Clare. Seeing it is one thing but doing something about it is another.
I fully accept that they will try and find the right balance to get the team back on the road but sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind. We are now moving into a stage in the championship where the teeth of the opposition will be sharper, the fear of seasons end has a way of focusing the mind.
It would appear that some personnel are going to lose out. A few changes could go a long way towards making this Limerick team more competitive.
Would moving Seamus Hickey to corner back strengthen the full back line. How about Cian Lynch going to assist Paul Browne at midfield? A half forward line of Kyle Hayes, Gearoid Hegarty and Barry Nash would add much needed strength in this line but more over they would be able to win their own ball. Shane Dowling does not have the pace for out field and full forward is his only option now. If focused and on form he would make life difficult for any full back.
The hurling championship only really begins now. From here on the heat will be turned up by everyone. Limerick have had a bit more time to come to terms and that might stand to them. Next Monday morning at 8.35am on RTE Radio the draw will be made and from here the journey via the back door begins in earnest.
The entire community of Bruff have been greatly saddened this week with the loss of young GAA player Luke O’Brien-May. At just nineteen Luke passed away after a short illness last weekend. He was a very popular member of both the hurling and football teams from underage level and also played with the Junior B team for the first time this year. He went to school in Castletroy College and also played hurling in the school team. He had a great love of gaelic games and was always one of the first to training. Maurice Hehir Chairman of Bruff GAA club said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Luke’s family. He played in so many of our teams and his family were great supporters of the club. Luke was a quiet young man but on the field he always gave 100%.” No words of comfort will ease the pain that his parents Denis and Brid are suffering this week and the weeks ahead. To both of them and his brothers Ross and Paul I offer my sincere sympathy. May he rest in peace.