Plenty of positives to take from 2019 for Limerick footballers

I was in the sky for the 1st half of the game last Saturday and had to do with regular updates on Twitter and WhatsApp for the 2nd half. Family holidays away in June are one of the few perks of no longer playing inter county.

But my mind was definitely in Cusack Park for those few hours. You’re either GAA or you’re not I suppose!

Having not seen much of the action bar a few highlights and Billy Lee’s colourful post-match interview, I can’t go into too much detail on how the game went.

The scoring graph would indicate Limerick lost out in the minutes either side of halftime, when outscored 2-2 to nil.

A bit simplistic maybe but it’s a simple game. The other 66/67 minutes the score read Limerick 1-10 Westmeath 0-11.

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers Round 2, TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar, Co.Westmeath 22/6/2019 Westmeath vs Limerick Jamie Lee of Limerick with Westmeath’s Jack Smith Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tom O’Hanlon

Again, it’s not as straightforward as that but it just goes to show when this group make the right decisions on the ball they can compete with a team who will be regarded as ‘Tier 1’ in 2020.

And conversely, when you turn the ball over cheaply, as Billy alluded to post game, you will get punished more often than not.

The two areas that let Limerick down most during the year were based around possession – losing it too easily on occasion and not turning attacking positions into scoring opportunities.

If a SWOT analysis was done on the group with 2020 in mind, this would fall under the “Opportunities” heading.

After the Limerick hurlers league win, John Kiely was quoted as saying “It’s not a hurling year. It’s a hurling career”.

I would absolutely subscribe to this. It’s sport obviously at the end of the day, but to achieve anything at that level you do need to live it while you’re lucky enough to be in that bubble.

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

Too often players or teams follow a good year with a poor one or disappear completely for a couple of years. The graph for the Limerick Footballers as both a group and individuals is on an upward curve after 2019.

I mentioned previously how performances in the league improved and given the uncertainty around the championship format for 2020, a promotion push from Division 4 has to be a big target in order to keep developing.

The championship win over Tipp in Thurles was no fluke and a real monkey off the back given the wait for a Munster Championship win and playing football well into June was a welcome change. Now the bar has been moved up a few notches.

Expectation comes with that territory. Hopefully 2020 will see stability in the panel, with a few absentees returning to the fray and a few fresh faces from the underage grades stepping up.

For now though, it’s up to the players to bring those standards back to their respective clubs. A rising tide lifts all boats.

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers Round 2, TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar, Co.Westmeath 22/6/2019 Westmeath vs Limerick Limerick manager Billy Lee Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tom O’Hanlon

It would also be remiss of me not to mention the untimely and very sad passing last week of an Askeaton/Ballysteen GAA icon Albert Bourke.

Locally regarded as one of the finest dual players ever to pull on the green and gold, he also contributed hugely on the sideline to many different grades across both codes.

My earliest memory of Albert was at an U12 game against Newcastle West. I was being marked by a good friend of mine Ray Massey, who wasn’t sparing me.

At half time Albert asked me – as only he could – “Does he know he is a friend of yours?” Message delivered loud and clear, even for a 12 year old.

He was someone who commanded respect without ever demanding it, and had a presence regardless of what situation you met him.

Straight talking but always supportive, Albert will be a huge loss to his family and the GAA community in Askeaton/Ballysteen. Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

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