Browne focused on Limerick's latest test

PADRAIG BROWNE, who missed Limerick's easy 2A win over London last weekend because of studies, returns at left-corner back in place of Pat Ranahan for Sunday's visit to Donegal.

Otherwise, manager Mikey Ned O'Sullivan and his selectors have pinned their faith in a side which, with limited alterations, has carried the flag throughout the league campaign.

The Shannonsiders, relegated last season, now sit alone on top of the table, albeit having played one game more than Donegal.

Said football board secretary Sean McAuliffe: "This is probably the defining moment. We have beaten good teams along the way but Donegal, on their home ground, will be a really big test. We finish our campaign, at home to Leitrim and we have our sights set on a quick return to the top flight."

Donegal manager Brian McIver has a number of injury worries, most notably over the fitness of midfielder Stephen McDermott, who is suffering from a back injury, and won't name his team until tomorrow.

Eamon McGee and Ciaran Bonner, who were both unable to start last week's match against Clare because of injury, are being given every opportunity to prove their fitness.

High-flying Limerick hurling team are really getting down to business. Manager Joe McKenna has instructed his 30-strong squad to set their alarms for 6am over the next three weeks to allow for training sessions one hour later.

Unbeaten in their three league outings to date, the Shannonsiders are aiming to keep the momentum going with wins over Laois on Sunday, and Antrim in their final game to ensure a place in the play-offs.

McKenna makes just one change in personnel from the team which drew with Kilkenny for Sunday's trip to Portlaoise. Goalkeeper Timmy Houlihan, winner of three All-Ireland U-21 medals, is given his first chance of the season. Brian Murray, who has impressed since he was handed his opportunity, is being rested.

McKenna, with the Waterford Crystal Cup already on the sideboard, believes the best has yet to come from his young charges.

"Up to now, the emphasis had been on physical work and the early morning starts give us the opportunity to brush up on our hurling skills, of which we have done little," said McKenna.

Limerick hope to strengthen their squad with the return of Peter Lawlor and the rejuvenated Barry Foley, the latter just one of three surviving members of the team which lost to Wexford in the 1996 All-Ireland final.

Lawlor sensationally quit the squad five weeks ago, but the management remain reasonably optimistic that he will have a change of mind and return in time for their opening Munster championship meeting with Tipperary in mid-May.

Foley played in a recent challenge against Offaly when he scored four points, and has been invited to continue training with the squad.

Brendan Murphy returns to the Offaly team for their visit to Cusack Park on Sunday to take on Clare. The Offaly captain missed the win over Wexford last time out because of injury. He replaces Stephen Brown and that is the only change on the team.

However, full back Paul Cleary, left-corner forward David Franks, left-half back Dermot Hoctor and right-half forward Dylan Hayden are all suffering from flu at the minute and missed training on Tuesday night.

LIMERICK (SH v Laois): T. Houlihan; D. Reale, TJ Ryan, M. Foley, O. Moran, B. Geary, M. O'Riordan; P. O'Grady, D. O'Grady; M. O'Brien, S. Lucey, C. Fitzgerald, A. O'Shaughnessy, B. Begley, M. Keane.

LIMERICK (SF v Donegal): S Kiely; S Gallagher, J McCarthy, P Browne; C Mullane, S Lavin, A Lane; J Galvin, J Stokes; P Ahern, D Reidy, S Buckley; J O'Brien, M Crowley (c), M Reidy.

OFFALY (SH v Clare): B. Mullins; B. O'Meara, P. Cleary, D. Franks; K. Brady, R. Hanniffy, D. Hoctor; G. Hanniffy, A. Hanrahan; D. Hayden, M. O'Hara, B. Murphy; B. Carroll, J. Bergin, A. Egan.

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CourtsGaaFootballPlace: LondonPlace: DonegalPlace: LeitrimPlace: PortlaoisePlace: Cusack ParkPerson: BrownePerson: Padraig BrownePerson: Pat RanahanPerson: Mikey Ned O'SullivanPerson: Sean McAuliffePerson: Brian McIverPerson: Stephen McDermottPerson: Eamon McGeePerson: Ciaran BonnerPerson: Joe McKennaPerson: McKennaPerson: Timmy HoulihanPerson: Brian MurrayPerson: Peter LawlorPerson: Barry FoleyPerson: LawlorPerson: FoleyPerson: Brendan MurphyPerson: Stephen BrownPerson: Paul ClearyPerson: David FranksPerson: Dermot HoctorPerson: Dylan HaydenPerson: LimerickPerson: T. HoulihanPerson: D. RealePerson: TJ RyanPerson: M. FoleyPerson: O. MoranPerson: B. GearyPerson: M. O'RiordanPerson: P. O'GradyPerson: D. O'GradyPerson: M. O'BrienPerson: LuceyPerson: A. O'ShaughnessyPerson: B. BegleyPerson: S KielyPerson: S GallagherPerson: J McCarthyPerson: P BrownePerson: C MullanePerson: S LavinPerson: A LanePerson: J GalvinPerson: J StokesPerson: P AhernPerson: D ReidyPerson: S BuckleyPerson: J O'BrienPerson: M CrowleyPerson: M ReidyPerson: B. MullinsPerson: B. O'MearaPerson: P. ClearyPerson: D. FranksPerson: K. BradyPerson: R. HanniffyPerson: D. HoctorPerson: G. HanniffyPerson: A. HanrahanPerson: D. HaydenPerson: M. O'HaraPerson: B. MurphyPerson: B. CarrollPerson: J. BerginPerson: A. EganEvent: Waterford Crystal CupEvent: 1996 All-Ireland finalEvent: MunsterOrganisation: LimerickOrganisation: ShannonsidersOrganisation: DonegalOrganisation: ClareOrganisation: LaoisOrganisation: AntrimOrganisation: KilkennyOrganisation: WexfordOrganisation: OffalyOrganisation: SHOrganisation: SF
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