Progress is key as winning becomes a happy habit

“IF THEY didn’t change, my Fitbit was going to hop off my hand with the heart rate!” Billy Lee’s quick witted post-match response to a question about Limericks first half showing last weekend.

I’ve no doubt he gained a few Fitbit Badges from all the pacing the touchline he did watching his charges leave Netwatch Cullen Park with a “smash and grab” win.

It wasn’t pretty – the weekend conditions were never going to allow it to be – but Limerick dug out a huge result which leaves them in with a shout for a promotion push at least.

2 January 2020; Limerick manager Billy Lee during the 2020 McGrath Cup Group A match between Waterford and Limerick at Fraher Field in Dungarvan, Waterford. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Heading into a mini break for the National League, what other “badges” have Limerick earned to date?

The “Frank the Tank” Badge

Limerick GAA teams are on a bit of a winning streak at the minute. Both codes have yet to taste defeat in 2020, with the footballers 3 from 3 in the league, and six from six competitively when the McGrath Cup campaign is taken into account.

Winning is most definitely a habit and when you’re on that streak you tend to find ways to get over the line, even when things aren’t going the way you had planned. Long may it continue.

The “Road Warriors” Badge

The win away to Carlow brought a 2nd away win in the league, something a Limerick Football team hasn’t achieved since the 2013 season, when Limerick went four from four on the road.

11 January 2020; Ciarán Sheehan of Cork in action against Limerick’s Tony McCarthy and Robert Childs, right, during the McGrath Cup Final match between Cork and Limerick at LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It’s such a hard thing to do no matter what division you’re in, as evidenced by the fact Billy Lee’s group are the only team so far with a 100% away record after two away games.

The unfamiliar surroundings and all that goes with the preparation and travel for away games tests more than just your football ability. Concentration levels and commitment to the group are challenged more and some things are just out of your control.

But there is nothing sweeter than celebrating after the game with that tight knit band of supporters who made the trip, arriving back into the buzz of the dressing room and the feel good vibes on the bus journey home. If you could bottle it you would be a millionaire!

The “Scrooge” Badge

Limerick have been miserly when it comes to scores conceded, averaging less than nine points against so far, the best in all the divisions. It’s very much a team effort in that regard, and Donal O’Sullivan has yet to have his goals breached.

Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Cusack Park, County Co. Clare 28/5/2017 Clare vs Limerick Limerick goalkeeper Donal O’Sullivan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Defence wins Championships (and Leagues!) they say and it has given this group a strong foundation to build on. The next step in that is to start turning the possession gained into more scoring opportunities. Tidying up the turnovers will help with that.

The “Tortoise & Hare” Badge

Not as drastic as the famous fable maybe, but nonetheless, something that has been a recurring theme in the league to date.

The cumulative score for Limericks first 15 minutes in the three games to date is 0-1 to 0-11 against! It’s a credit to the players that in all three instances they have come back to either be level or leading going in at the break.

I’m sure like every team the management would have been emphasising a quick start in the lead up to all these games. The fact remains Limerick have been left in the traps a bit, but have used no little skill and character to get back in the race each time.

There is nothing wrong with being a front runner now and again though. That would be better for all our hearts!

McGrath Cup Final, LIT Gaelic Grounds, Co. Limerick 11/1/2020 Cork vs Limerick Limerick’s Iain Corbett in action Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

All in all Limerick couldn’t ask to be in a better position heading into the two week break. You can’t guarantee a promotion run in the opening block of games but you can rule yourself out of the race. They have navigated those games well but the reality is the biggest tests lie ahead.

And while plenty people will start talking Limerick up now, the only achievement the players and management will be worried about is getting a positive result next time out at home to Wicklow. But for now, all challenges have been passed.

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