Bright Start To 2017 For Limerick Footballers
By Joel Slattery
After seeing both Clare and Tipperary upset the odds and reach the latter stages of the All-Ireland series in 2016, the Limerick footballers must surely feel that they are not a million miles away.
Granted, their league form over the last few years has been poor – they are currently preparing for a NFL Division 4 campaign after all, but over the last few years, there has been little to separate Munster’s chasing pack.
Typically, the Shannonsiders have been number three in the southern province behind Cork and Kerry but, Tipp’s strong under-age squads over the last number of years have taken that mantle away from Limerick in recent times.
However, under new manager Billy Lee, Limerick pushed a strong Kerry side all the way in last week’s McGrath Cup final – with the Kingdom winning by four points after extra time.
Wins over Clare and Waterford got Lee’s men into the final and while those wins won’t garner many headlines, victories have been at a premium for Limerick over the last couple of seasons so those results will give the squad a much needed confidence boost.
That said, this squad will refuse to get carried away with themselves: they know pushing Kerry all the way in January counts for very little when you are about to embark on a league campaign where you are expected to win the majority of your games.
Limerick are playing a brand of positive football, which they haven’t done over the last few years and Billy Lee will be hoping that this will pay dividends.
“We encourage them to play football, they try to do that,” he said after the Kerry defeat. “We kicked 2-12 but at the end of the day, we came second.”
This realism also showed when he looked ahead to the NFL opener.
“One thing I have been stressing to people all week is: performing well against Kerry, beating Clare, beating Waterford doesn’t guarantee us points on the board in the league against Wexford or Westmeath.
“All the other managers (in Division 4) have the same ambition as us; to get out. The biggest mistake we can make is thinking we’re there, that we have made it,” he added.
While there are no calls for anyone to get carried away with what they have seen with Limerick so far in 2017, they have made a bright start. They play Wexford in round one before their home opener against Westmeath six days later. If Limerick can get at least one win from those opening matches, promotion is very much on the cards.
Every year seems to have one or two teams who come from the wilderness to surprise people. In 2016 it was Tipp and Clare – could Limerick do something similar this time around?
Photo credit: Limerick Leader