Limerick Footballers look to continue in the right direction as the League returns

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”

This quote from Charles Darwin has never been more appropriate than to the times we all find ourselves in at the moment. Every day we are being challenged in different ways and having to come up with on-the-spot solutions.

And this is no different in the sporting worlds we live in. Those teams, managements and players that are able to best adapt to whatever challenge they will almost certainly face will be the ones who will look back on 2020 with some degree of satisfaction, at least in a sporting context.

The National Football Leagues make their unseasonal but very welcome return this weekend. Intercounty GAA is one of the last sporting scenes to get back up and running in this Covid world, albeit the players themselves should be well used to the “new normal” around training and matches, having all had a clear run at their club championships.

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

Normally most players would be heading into hibernation at this time of year, allowing their bodies rest after a long season. It’s all change in 2020, with most Intercounty players now aiming to peak in late October. The long, uncertain wait to pull on the county colours is almost over though. The individual S&C and skill sessions have been replaced by a reintroduction into a socially distanced group setting.

Dressing room chats have a new, hopefully temporary home at the side of the pitch. I’m sure all involved are delighted to have it back. Some degree of normality. A break from R numbers and lockdown talk. A chance to rekindle that “club” environment that allows teams to gel together better.

But the reality is if players don’t hit the ground running, this truncated season could be over before it’s even re-started, given the burst of games.

A feast or a famine!

The Limerick Footballers are facing into a real promotion “4 pointer” against Wexford in Mick Neville Park this Sunday. But after the enforced break, it would be easier to predict what the 2021 GAA calendar will look like, than trying to analyse the form teams will bring into these games!

The footballers received many deserved plaudits for their early season form – winning the McGrath Cup (beating Cork in the final) and winning 4 from 5 games in the league. But the question remains, where are they at now, over 6 months later.

2 January 2020; Danny Neville of Limerick scores his side’s first goal during the 2020 McGrath Cup Group A match between Waterford and Limerick at Fraher Field in Dungarvan, Waterford. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Personnel wise, they do appear to have strengthened in some areas. The loss of Danny Neville through injury is a disappointing one (hopefully he may see action come championship), but the return of Darragh Treacy from his travels is a bonus, as is the form that the likes of Hugh Bourke, Paul Maher, Colm McSweeney, Tommie Childs and others have shown with their clubs in recent weeks.

It will be very interesting to see the make up of the team at the weekend. With such a short run in time after the club championships, Billy Lee and his selectors will have the unenviable task of trying to make the most of the players at their disposal. But it’s a welcome problem I’m sure.

Again, they themselves will need to be able to react quickly to a changing environment. You only need to look at the hand Stephen Kenny was dealt last week to realise that plans can be thrown into disarray in a phone call nowadays. There is no NBA bubble for these lads.

Being able to adapt on the fly is going to play a massive part in the whole journey.

11 January 2020; Limerick manager Billy Lee before the McGrath Cup Final match between Cork and Limerick at LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

That being said, this should be greeted as a massive opportunity for the group. At one point, it looked very unlikely that any of these games would be possible, and with it the chance of promotion. That’s not to downplay the hard work and impressive way results were ground out early in the year.

Without that Limerick would be facing into dead rubber games, as has been the case in the previous 3 league campaigns. Another example of the team evolving. But it’s almost a free swing now! So its crucial that the group embrace this opportunity, starting with Wexford Sunday.

Darwin is famous for his Theory of Evolution; that everything in the natural world is in competition, and the “winners” are those that are the most adaptable.

The evolution of this group has been evident in the past 18 months. They are developing both as individuals and as a team.

The next month won’t define them by any means. They are up on 2 feet regardless.

But positive performances and results would signal a huge step in the right direction.

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