Footballers have chance for redemption in Mullingar

Last weekend we headed west for the wedding of my cousin Ellen and her husband Peter in The Armada Hotel at Spanish Point. It was a brilliant two day celebration, and with a few hours downtime on the Saturday I went for a wander around the hotel.

Dotted about the venue were pictures of JFKs visit to Ireland in 1963, including a number of speeches he made over the years. In the context of Limericks upcoming football qualifier with Westmeath, a few of his more famous – and maybe not so famous – quotes struck a chord.

“Victory has a thousand fathers. But defeat is an orphan”

The out-pouring of goodwill and back slapping that followed the win over Tipp was in stark contrast to the emptiness and smart remarks from some quarters after the Cork game. That’s sport I suppose. Especially at national level.

Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final, Pairc Ui Rinn, Cork 1/6/2019 Cork vs Limerick Limerick’s Cillian Fahy with Thomas Clancy and Ruairi Deane of Cork Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

But there are lessons to be learned from both. The Tipp game showed what this group can produce when all the pieces click into place and targets are hit. While the Cork game showed the margin for error is so small when the intensity is ramped up. Huge learnings in both.

In his autobiography ‘Open’ Andre Agassi revealed a huge turning point in his career was when he came to terms with the fact that he did not have to always play the perfect game in order to win. Mistakes happen. Prior to that realisation, any error he made would knock him completely off his game. Limerick can’t allow that to happen either individually or as a group going forward. Forget the mistake. Remember the lesson.

“Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought”

Westmeath in Cusack Park is one of the toughest draws Limerick could have been handed. Boasting attacking players of the calibre of Kieran Martin, John Heslin and Ger Egan, the Lake County have real pedigree.

Allianz Football League Division 3 Final, Croke Park, Dublin 6/4/2019 Laois vs Westmeath Westmeath celebrate with the cup after the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

They operated in Division 1 of the Allianz League as recently as 2014 and having won Division 3 in April they have Division 2 football to look forward to for 2020. The 2 most recent league meetings between the teams have seen comfortable wins for Westmeath.

Despite this, their league form at times this year should give Limerick hope with draws against Carlow and Louth. And they fell at the first hurdle against Laois in the Leinster Championship, so they should be respected, but not feared.

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”

The blueprint for Limericks win over Tipp is one that I’m sure Billy Lee and the coaches will be looking to return to on Saturday. It gave them a solid foundation to build on and grow into the game. Cork had their homework done and didn’t give Limerick that opportunity.

Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final, Pairc Ui Rinn, Cork 1/6/2019 Cork vs Limerick Limerick manager Billy Lee Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

I’m not sure Westmeath will have given as much thought to Limerick as the Rebels obviously did. I’m hoping they won’t have anyway! It’s a clichè but the first 15 minutes are huge in this regard. Westmeath will look to try and put the game to bed early but every minute that Limerick are in the game will give those wearing green confidence and also put doubts in the minds of those in maroon.

“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen”

I would love to see Limerick really go after the Westmeath kickout, something that was absent against Cork. Watching the Connacht final at the weekend and other games recently, teams who are really committing numbers to opposition kickouts are getting rewarded.

Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Semple Stadium, Co. Tipperary 11/5/2019 Tipperary vs Limerick Limerick’s Iain Corbett scores a goal. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Obviously you don’t want to leave yourself open at the back but if you can win possession from that restart it will mean Limerick will have the numbers in attacking positions to go at Westmeath. If Limerick are to knock Westmeath off their stride then pushing extra bodies up on these restarts might just be the curveball required.

And that’s something that Limerick lacked against Cork. To tear up the script. To make a real battle of it. Commit green jerseys to every break, double up when tackling, support the ball carrier.

I have no doubt there were lads in that dressingroom in Páirc Ui Rinn that were not happy with their performance and will be delighted to have the opportunity to put in a big performance on Saturday. JFK said it best “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

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