Dowling returns to fold as Kiely makes ten changes for Laois clash

Na Piarsaigh’s Shane Dowling makes his return to the Limerick starting line as John Kiely makes ten changes as he tries to blood as many different players as possible for the remainder of the league.

Just five remain from the scrappy victory over a stubborn Offaly last time out with Sean Finn, Seamus Hickey, Declan Hannon, Gearoid Hegarty and James Ryan all retained.

Dowling makes his first start in 2017 and there are first league appearances for goalie Barry Hennessy and Dan Morrissey at wing back bringing to 32 the amount of players used in the first four games.

Richie English is at full back with Declan Hannon returned to centre back while William O’Donoghue gets his first start. Colin Ryan is named at corner forward having previously featured at wing back.

Limerick hurlers travel to Portlaoise knowing that promotion from 1B is still a possibility, yet highly unlikely. They find themselves third in the table, level on points with Galway and two behind pace setters Wexford. With Offaly and Laois yet to play for the Wexford men, the chances of Davey Fitz’s team losing ground is very slim.

However, Limerick must focus on continuing their winning ways in preparation for their final round game against the Tribesmen. Last Saturday, Limerick recorded an underwhelming 1-25 to 3-15 win over Offaly in the Gaelic Grounds. It was their second win on the trot, albeit against weaker opposition.

Limerick started brightly and scored the opening six points. Offaly grew into the game and aided by the dismissal of John Fitzgibbon lead by two at half time.

Limerick gradually pulled back and with the help of 11 points from Ronan Lynch and 1-1 from Andrew La Touche Cosgrave pulled through for a 4-point win.

Despite the win, John Kiely knows that he has a lot of work to do with this team prior to the Galway game and most likely a League Quarter final on April 1.

It’s unfathomable to imagine Limerick dropping out of the top 4 of Division 1B, which will see them advance to the Quarter Final stage of the League against a team from Division 1A. These League clashes can now be used to further introduce new players to the rigours of competitive senior hurling.

Although the League is a good indicator of a team’s early season promise, Kiely must have one eye on the June 4 Munster Championship against Clare.

Last year’s heavy defeat against eventual All-Ireland Champions in the Munster semi-final disrupted Limericks season to an extent that they were unable to recover and caused them limped out at the Qualifiers stages against a poor Clare side.

It is imperative that Limerick get their Championship campaign off to a win against the Banner and their preparation continues against Laois this weekend. Laois’ League campaign has been a disappointment thus far with a solitary victory over Offaly wedged between a hammering at the hands of Galway and a discouraging loss to Kerry.

Laois find themselves second last in the table and in danger of losing their 1B status, something which must be of massive concern to their supporters.

However, do not expect any let up from Limerick who should enjoy a comfortable win to further plunge Laois into relegation danger and propel themselves into a final day clash with Galway.

LIMERICK: Barry Hennessy (Kilmallock); Stephen Cahill (Tournafulla), Richie English (Doon), Sean Finn (Bruff); Seamus Hickey (Murroe-Boher), Declan Hannon (Adare), Dan Morrissey (Ahane); Darragh O’Donovan (Doon), William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh); Shane Dowling (Na Piarsaigh), Gearoid Hegarty (St Patricks), James Ryan (Garryspillane); Kevin O’Brien (Patrickswell), Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry), Colin Ryan (Pallasgreen). Subs: David McCarthy (Glenroe), Tom Condon (Knockaderry), Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell), Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh), Pat Ryan (Doon), David Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh), Alan Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh), Andrew La Touche Cosgrave (Monaleen), Ronan Lynch (Na Piarsaigh), Seanie Tobin (Murroe-Boher), Peter Casey (Na Piarsaigh).

Laois V Limerick.
Saturday March 11 @7pm, Portlaoise
Live on eirSport 1

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