Limerick and UCD's Seamus Flanagan at the Fitzgibbon Cup launch
THE Fitzgibbon Cup commences this weekend and should be the centre of attention for hurling enthusiasts.
But in the crazy world that is the GAA Master Fixture list, the prestigious competition doesn’t have a clear run – instead it is forced into the schedule between Allianz Hurling League games.
Likewise the Sigerson Cup and the respective secondary competitions like the Ryan and Trench Cups.
The Fitzgibbon Cup is a cracking championship with the best of the best hurlers on display but where does it’s future lie.
There are round one games this Sunday, and round two next Wednesday-Thursday and that weekend is round one of the Allianz Hurling League. Hot on the heels of those inter-county games is round three of the Fitzgibbon Cup.
Some could be facing into three games over a seven day period.
And, it continues into the knockout stages – the Fitzgibbon Cup final is set for Saturday February 23, which is the same weekend as round four of the hurling league.
Limerick manager John Kiely is working with a 42-man panel at present and 15 of those will be involved with one of the Third Level Colleges.
While everyone prefers playing to training, a hectic schedule doesn’t afford an opportunity to reach potential.
It’s the time of year to try and impress management and stake claim on a starting jersey for the season. One wonders are those not involved in the Fitzgibbon Cup in pole position.
Just five of Limerick’s starting team from the All-Ireland final will be tied up with Fitzgibbon Cup. The other 10 Limerick players involved in Fitzgibbon Cup are surely targeting more involvement with John Kiely’s team in 2019 but the hectic schedule in the coming weeks appears to hamper their progress.
For all that, the Fitzgibbon Cup is about to get underway and still maintains a magic for hurling followers.
There is something special about mid-week games out in UL, LIT or Mary I – often with crowds of up to 1,000 to watch the cream of hurling talent.
Champions UL have just one home game in the group phase but what a prospect of welcoming UCC to Limerick this Sunday (2.30). Six years have passed since the Cork men were last in a final but overturning the 38-time champions is always special.
All-Ireland champions Kyle Hayes, Tom Morrissey, Barry Murphy, Barry Nash and Lorcan Lyons are all in the UL panel, managed by Gary Kirby.
Among those registered in the UCC panel are Cork stars Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Shane Kingston.
The draw was not kind to UL with games away to NUIG and UCD to follow.
One home win and one on the road is a must for the champions.
In the post Davy Fitzgerald era, LIT also have three group games but two at home and their group looks a lot more straight forward. They will have mid-week games in Moylish against Garda and Trinity and with the likes of Diarmaid Byrnes, Peter Casey and David Dempsey on board, LIT should advance.
Champions in 2017, Mary I have Aaron Gillane as their star man. They have just two games – home mid-week to Maynooth.
On paper, Sunday’s UL v UCC game is the pick of the games to come in Limerick unless one of the trio earn a home quarter final
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