Matt O’Callaghan talks Clare V Limerick in MSFC clash.
Limerick head to Cusack Park, Ennis on Sunday in the Munster Football Championship quarter final to face Clare.
It will be Billy Lee’s first taste of Championship Football as Limerick coach. He will no doubt be aware of the task at hand with Clare’s development in recent years. Clare reached the quarter final stage of the All-Ireland series last year. This was after disposing Limerick 0-16 to 0-13 in the opening round of the Munster championship earlier in the summer.
Clare played their spring football in Division 2 of the Allianz League, whilst Limerick failed to be promoted from the bottom tier. The gulf in class of opposition is sure to be a worry for Billy Lee, something which Matt O’Callaghan would agree with.
“If you take the League, Clare in Division 2, Limerick in Division 4, no chance for Limerick would be your instant reaction. But it’s not as simple as that.”
Yet, he feels that there is hope for Limerick, who showed glimpses of quality in the League. Many young players were blooded and Limerick finished their campaign strongly winning their final four games, after losing the opening three, which were against the top three sides in the group.
“Limerick finished with a flourish and won four games on the trot,
In the first three games they had an away game with Wexford, home game with Westmeath and an away game in Carlow, you couldn’t script it more difficult”
Clare on the other hand started brightly and looked on course for promotion until a poor run of form saw them having to fight off relegation, “Clare started quite well in Division 2 and they had 5 points racked up, but they finished very very poorly and were struggling at the end to survive in Division 2”.
Whilst many are writing off Limerick’s chances, Limerick will have no fear heading to Ennis. The loss of a couple of young players to America will be disheartening but Limerick must be confident of causing an upset next Sunday.
“Clare were struggling, Limerick have a bit of momentum behind them, that will certainly close the gap,
I think Limerick are certainly moving in the right direction and I think we’ve a decent decent chance going to Ennis”
Limerick will be boosted by the return of stalwarts Ian Ryan and Seanie Buckley to training in the past week. Ryan has been struggling with a back and hernia issue whilst Buckley has been sidelined with a knee problem. Speaking about the pair Lee said,
”It’s great to have both of them back on the training ground and I know the boys are delighted to have them back because they bring a wealth of experience and have been fantastic servants to their clubs and county and set the standards in terms of dedication.”
”Ian and Seanie have just come back in and I would have they have only been there really about twice – they have their own challenges in terms of getting themselves back fit and we have to be patient to allow them get back fully from their injuries,” he continued.
”Ian we have on the 31-man panel and Seanie we haven’t, because he needs more time – Seanie won’t be an option and the next week will tell with Ian, but we must be respectful that Ian has played 20-minutes with his club since the county final last year.”
Lee is confident that his side can pull off an upset in Ennis and feels Limerick are hitting form at the right time, heading into the championship.
“We are trying to encourage these lads that they are capable and able and to go and express themselves. It’s been a journey – we had a good McGrath Cup, I felt Westmeath were a step above everyone in Division Four and then we had Wexford and I felt we could have got something down there. The lowest point for me in the journey so far was Carlow. I have nothing but admiration for their honesty and the last four wins.”
Limerick footballers have played in patches this year but are more than capable of turning Clare over on Sunday. The finish to the league campaign should mean that management and players will have the belief that this team can kick on and make further progress.
To listen to Matt O’Callaghan’s preview in full, just click on the link below.