On Saturday evening a team in red will take to the field and be expected to come away with a comfortable victory.
Many will feel that their opposition, who have beaten the odds and surprised all the experts to date, will be happy just to have made it this far in the competition. The manager of these underdogs will have been told he has done so well to get to this stage with the players he has at his disposal.
The players themselves celebrated this achievement with jubilant scenes on the pitch and a few beers in the dressing room afterwards. But that’s enough about Spurs and the Champions League Final with Liverpool.
As with the Champions League finalists though, the Limerick Footballers will have had a three week break between competitive games come throw in Saturday.
How Adrian O’Brien, Brian Begley and the coaches have managed this time will play a huge part in the level of performance that is delivered.
The lads were in great shape for the Tipperary game. Full of energy and running and I’m sure were very eager to keep that going at training. But you have to try and keep a lid on that as much as possible until game day.
And as good as the performance was against Tipperary, and it was excellent, there is always room for improvement.
While 3-11 (3-9 from play) is a game winning total any day, there were also a few scores left behind. Seamus O’Carroll and Sean McSweeney worked exceptionally hard when not in possession and every ball that went in to them stuck.
But knowing the two lads I’m sure they would have wanted to get their names on the scoresheet and will be looking to rectify that on Saturday.
The same with Darragh Treacy and Colm McSweeney, who both did Trojan work up and down the field, and would normally contribute a score. It was great to see a contribution off the bench through the clinching goal from Peter Nash.
This was something that was missing during the league but is a must if you are going to get over the line in big games. No longer is a player being introduced just to keep things to the level the player you are replacing was performing at; you need to bring it up a level or two.
People have said Cork are vulnerable. The rock many a team have perished on. Colm McSweeney, Adam Kearns and Oran Collins were part of a minor team three years ago who had a similarly huge victory over Tipperary in Semple Stadium and travelled to Pairc Ui Rinn full of hope. The game was over by half time. The ‘Corkness’ was in full flow.
The same happened to the seniors against Cork that year. We could not get any sort of foothold in the game and before we knew it they were out of sight. Cork have had a few good challenge game victories recently, most notably against the five-in-a-row chasing Dubs and they will have had the opportunity to watch Limerick and identify key players.
In Luke Connolly they have a match winner. But in Sean O’Dea, Limerick have a leader who is built in the Johnny McCarthy mould. The template for success will be the same as it was for the Tipperary game. Whatever way Limerick can get their hands on the “oxygen” that is the ball. Especially in the opening quarter.
Use it intelligently but with purpose. Allow lads to draw breath. This group is full of running so use that advantage at every opportunity and see can a lad in a red jersey stay with you. The game Saturday is being described as “bonus territory” for this Limerick team.
If I’m honest I’ve also mentioned this when chatting to people. But on reflection that’s nonsense. It can only be looked at that way if the team goes out and puts in a big performance again.
Otherwise it will have been a missed opportunity. The result will be the result at the end of the game. But this can’t be seen as the pinnacle of what this group are capable of. And if they want to keep the fire lit they need to keep giving it oxygen.
This is sport, and if the last 12 months has taught us anything it’s that, if you are willing to put the work in when it matters and really back yourself, there is no limit to what can be achieved.