Ryan: Cork game looks a winner-takes-all contest

While there are those in Limerick who bemoan the fact the Treaty are again plying their wares in Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League, that is not a sentiment shared by first-year manager TJ Ryan.

“No complaints,” he said yesterday at the launch of the 2014 season, “There are no easy games anymore in either Division 1A or 1B and we’re starting this weekend with a visit to Cork against the All-Ireland finalists of 2013”.

It is probably the biggest game of the league for both sides, a winner-take-all promotion scenario this year as opposed to previous seasons, when Limerick have been twice denied in the 1B finals.

This one then is a game both sides will have been targeting with Ryan admitting “In 1B this year there’s only one team that gets promoted so it is a very big game.”

They go to Cork, however, shorn of potential starters, not least those from county champions Na Piarsaigh, beaten in the All-Ireland Club semi-final by Portumna.

“Those guys need a break. So they will be getting a couple of weeks off. You’ve got to be fair to them from a player welfare point of view, trying to hurl all the way through (without a break) wouldn’t be good. They’ll be out until the middle of the league we’ll probably give them three or four weeks off.”

The Na Piarsaigh players involved are Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes, Cathal King, David Breen and Alan Dempsey, while Ronan Lynch — still only a minor — could yet be a surprise call-up. They’re not the only absentees however. “We don’t have Seamus Hickey and Declan Hannon, they’re both out injured and will miss the entire league. Niall Moran has retired, that’s three forwards. Seamus did his cruciate against Clare last year (All-Ireland semi-final loss), he’s still out. Declan had a small operation on his leg before Christmas. The knockout stages might be a target for Declan if we get to them. The quarter-finals are March 30. Seamus’s injury is a serious one. It’s a slow burner. we’ll get it right and give him every chance.”

The season ahead will be a baptism of fire then for the former Limerick captain, though he does have the experienced Donal O’Grady alongside him.

“I would have thought after winning the Munster championship John (Allen, manager 2012/13) would have stayed. This is a difficult job, it’s 24/7 for the likes of any of the managers. I don’t know how they do it year in year out. It’s fierce draining but I can’t leave it alone, I have been involved in it all my life. An opportunity came up to work with someone like Donal O’Grady and I just thought it was a great opportunity for me. It was always a job I felt I wanted to do and be involved in Limerick hurling. When the opportunity came to work with Donal it was a no-brainer for me.”

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