Limerick football manager Billy Lee
LIMERICK football manager Billy Lee has urged his players to “embrace” the challenge of playing All Ireland finalists Mayo in Saturday’s All Ireland SFC Qualifier.
Stephen Rochford’s Mayo come to the Gaelic Grounds as the hottest of 1/50 favourites but Limerick will hope to take encouragement from the recent wins of Carlow, Longford and Fermanagh.
The round one qualifier has a 6pm throw-in on Saturday.
“You just embrace challenges like that – there is no point hiding away from it. We just have to take it on and go at it,” stressed Limerick manager Billy Lee.
The Saturday June 9 tie will be the first championship meeting of the sides since 2002 when Mayo were 0-13 to 1-9 winners over Liam Kearns’ Limerick in Hyde Park in Roscommon.
Billy Lee was a selector with that team.
“I remember John Galvin, when we were down a point, going in towards the graveyard side of the goals in Hyde Park and went to handpass it over the bar but unfortunately it went wide and they went down to kick another point and they won by two,” recalled Lee.
“It’s a long time ago and just goes to show how the cycle can turn around and if you don’t keep on top what you are trying to do as a county in terms of promoting the game for the kids and making it enthusiastic and enjoyable for them.”
The men in green and red are no strangers to Limerick – they were in the Gaelic Grounds last season – they beat Cork in a qualifier game. They were also in the Limerick venue in 2014 for their All Ireland SFC semi final replay with Kerry.
On Saturday, the Connacht side are likely to out number the home support.
”It’s important for our lads to feel they have support from the locals. I do appreciate that football isn’t everyones cup of tea and that’s ok but can still try and promote it ourselves to the general public. We need to challenge the general public to come and support the lads who represent Limerick on their behalf,” said Lee.
Mayo will include among their coaches Donie Buckley. The Kerryman was coach to the Limerick senior footballers under Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s management 2006-2010.
On Saturday (6pm), Limerick are looking for just a second championship win in four years
“Its a huge challenge for us – we are playing the second best team in the country from 2017 and definitely in the top four teams now.”
While accepting “its a big challenge” Billy Lee insists the player response to the draw was positive.
“That’s what you would be expecting and how players should look at it,” he stressed.
“I think the lads are looking forward to the challenge – lets see can we build on the Clare performance and see where that takes us.”
Limerick lost by 12-points to Clare to end up in this qualifier round.
“Obviously fellas are disappointed when you lose but it wasn’t too hard to pick them up and then the draw perked them up. We looked at it positively – we played well for periods in it and we have to try and build on that in terms of sustainability for 70-minutes instead of 50-minutes,” said Lee.
“We had a slow start against Clare but we were able to work ourselves back into it thankfully. You never want to give a team a head start so that’s mental preparation to be ready for the battle and the intensity that Mayo will bring. They have all the experience of All Ireland finals.”