Allianz HL Division 1B - Limerick v Dublin
For one club to account for more than a quarter of an inter-county panel is rare. Extremely rare.
In this instance, evidence to justify such a move quickly materialised; three days after the Limerick hurling squad was unveiled in mid-November, Na Piarsaigh swept to a fourth Munster senior club title in seven years.
Turning into 2018, Kiely knew it was more probability than possibility that his Na Piarsaigh players would not see game-time in a Limerick shirt until the county’s Munster championship opener in mid-May. The club’s All-Ireland semi-final victory last weekend confirmed as much.
On Saturday, March 17, the men from Caherdavin contest their second All-Ireland club decider in three years. And unless Limerick weave a path to the league final the Saturday after that, Shane Dowling, Alan Dempsey, David Dempsey, Ronan Lynch, Mike Casey, Peter Casey, William O’Donoghue, Thomas Grimes, Conor Boylan, and Kevin Downes will not see a single minute of league action. Moreover, it’ll be May 20 before any of these players get a first opportunity to line out for their county in 2018.
Four of this group — Mike Casey, Peter Casey, David Dempsey, and Shane Dowling — were championship starters last summer, while Kevin Downes and double U21 winner Ronan Lynch are expected to feature when they return from club duty.
So it’s not exactly as if these Na Piarsaigh lads are peripheral members of the Treaty County set-up.
Five weeks separate the playing of the All-Ireland club hurling semi-finals and final. That’s ludicrous in itself but it is not what frustrates Treaty boss Kiely.
As referenced above, the Munster club final was played on November 19 of last year. The Ulster championship was completed the month previous, while the Leinster and Galway deciders were run off on December 3. With regard to the latter pair, there was a fortnight’s gap between the semi-finals and final. In the case of Galway champions Liam Mellows, they enjoyed a three-week run into the county final.
Kiely is adamant the Tommy Moore Cup should have been handed over before Christmas. Holding on until St Patrick’s Day is both unnecessary and unfair.
“There is no doubt about it that the semi-final and final should be played before Christmas,” the Limerick manager begins.
“The provincial championships were finished in November. They had two games to play between that and Christmas. They should have been played then. This situation should not have been allowed develop.
“Going forward, you’d hope the club championship would be played within the calendar year. It is very difficult for the players, difficult on the clubs and it has a knock-on effect. It puts those players at a disadvantage.”
He’s right, you know. However Na Piarsaigh fare on St Patrick’s Day, there’ll be no break for Dowling and company. Nor will they want one, given the four-month headstart their Limerick teammates have on them.
“The challenge is with the players. They are going to have to work extremely hard once this club final is played to get an opportunity to compete for a Limerick starting 15 jersey. We have a group of 33 working very hard at present. Some of them are getting their chance and some are taking that chance, so that is going to make it all the more difficult for players coming in at a later stage to stake a claim for a starting berth.
“They’ll have to work very hard to get back up to inter-county speed and be able to show that they can do a job for the team and do a job for Limerick.”
Of those Kiely has available to him, 18 have been lining out for their college and county in recent weeks. From the team named for this evening’s Division 1B fixture against Dublin, Sean Finn, Gearoid Hegarty, Tom Morrissey, and Barry Murphy played midweek for UL.
“We have a young panel and with so many playing Fitzgibbon, it is hard to have cohesive training sessions.
“The lads in third level probably got more game-time than we’d like to see them getting for this time of year.
“We’ve done the best we can. I suppose it is a good indicator of where we’re going as a county when we have 18 players involved in Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-finals.”
A final word on maintaining their unbeaten start to the league this evening and their bid to end eight years in the second tier.
“Dublin is a huge game and we want to build on our recent good performances. The broader picture of getting out of 1B, you can have that in the back of your mind, but it doesn’t serve any purpose.”