Billy Lee: These are games Limerick strive to get

That Mayo fell to a bunch of students from Galway the weekend before last will have been long forgotten by the time Monaghan land into Castlebar for the league’s opening round.
Billy Lee: These are games Limerick strive to get

That the Cork hurlers put seven goals past Limerick is hardly shining proof all is well on Leeside once more.

And don’t expect Tyrone’s 2-23 to 0-6 obliteration of Donegal to be referenced should the two counties meet in an Ulster semi-final on June 18, as they likely will.

This is January. And no-one should be losing the run of themselves in January. A McGrath Cup title for Kerry today (Gaelic Grounds, 3pm) will have no bearing on how successful they are in dislodging Dublin from football’s high throne in seven or eight months time. But what of their opponents.

What of Limerick. Should they be getting excited this January? After all, it’s unlikely they’ll still be relevant come August.

They are relevant right now and, where Limerick football is concerned, that hasn’t been the case for quite a while; today’s McGrath Cup decider is the county’s first involvement in a competitive final since the 2013 Division 4 win over Offaly at Croke Park.

From then to here, Limerick’s footballers have played 37 times across McGrath Cup, league and championship. They’ve managed only 11 wins. They’re back in Division 4 this spring, haven’t won a Munster championship game in five years and the wins over Waterford and Clare, which delivered them a final spot this weekend, represented the county’s first back-to-back successes since April of 2015.

It might only be January, but they can’t afford to overlook the baby steps taken this past fortnight. Billy Lee is two months into his tenure as Treaty manager. Silverware in January wasn’t on his radar. He’s thankful for the extra game and the chance to test themselves against their illustrious neighbours. If nothing else, it shortens the gap to their Division 4 opener against Wexford. And given Westmeath are widely expected to wrap up the first of the promotion places, the second could well be taken by the winners of that clash below in Wexford Park.

“These are the kind of games you strive to get involved in,” he says of today’s final. “You can never substitute a competitive game, irrespective of the quality of the opposition. These are the games you want. We are focused on improving and improving the style of football that we are playing. Now, we’re going to try do that against one of the top teams in the country. This will challenge us in our own heads as to what we’re trying to do in a pressurised game.”

From a panel of 32 assembled for the McGrath Cup, 23 have so far seen action. Included in that are the returning Ger Collins and Seamus O’Carroll, the latter kicking 1—4 against Clare in his first appearance in a green shirt in over two years.

“The manner in which the players went about their business against Clare and Waterford was pleasing. We told them how we wanted them to play and they stuck with that. They are willing to learn and push themselves.

“To win two games and get to a final is a huge confidence builder for a new management and panel. All of the management were involved in some capacity at inter-county level and we all know of the massive commitment required. In some cases, you wonder are we asking too much of ourselves as individuals when there are jobs to be done on a daily basis.

“That’s the product that is there and we just have to embrace it. Certainly, winning makes it easier to enjoy.”

Lee continued: “Silverware would be an added bonus. We have to be realistic, though. This is a Division 4 team versus a Division 1 team.”

Fair enough, but it was only two winters ago when Division 4 Waterford turned over Division 1 Cork in the McGrath Cup semi-final.

Or Leitrim’s back-to-back FBD league titles in 2013 and 2014 against counties operating much higher up the ladder than them. All three results were ground out in January and yet none have been forgotten. Limerick, take note.

  • The Kerry Supporters Club hold their 27th annual social at the Ballygarry House Hotel, Tralee on Saturday, January 28. Guests of honour will be Darragh, Tomás and Marc Ó Sé. Other guests include minor football winning captain Sean O’Shea, minor hurling captain Shane Conway and junior football captain Paul O’Donoghue along with with 2016 All-Star, Paul Geaney.

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