Cregan backs Allen and says reputations count for nothing

Limerick legend Eamonn Cregan has delivered a damning verdict on the county’s senior hurling team — insisting no progress is being made.

However, the 1973 All-Ireland medallist has backed John Allen’s team selection for Sunday’s Munster SHC semi-final against Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds.

Allen has caused a stir by leaving Kevin Downes and Shane Dowling out of his starting line-up.

Dowling scored 0-8 and Downes hit two points when the sides met last year in Thurles, but Cregan insists reputations count for nothing and believes the team is not improving.

He fumed: “I’m sick and tired of moral victories. We’ve had them for God knows how long. Limerick have to win — that’s the only acceptable thing for me and all of us supporting Limerick.”

Cregan insisted that the recent form shown by Downes and Dowling left Allen with no choice but to leave the pair off the team.

“Shane Dowling had gone off form and was only a sub against Kilkenny in the challenge at Martinstown. His form dipped and John Allen has always said to these players that once you’re on the team, you keep your place and if you’re not on, you have to fight your way back in. Downes has been hit and miss again this year.

“It’s kind of a small surprise but you have to pick based on form. They don’t seem to be on form and reputations mean nothing.”

Cregan, who guided Mary Immaculate College to a historic Fitzgibbon Cup final appearance this year, added: “I’m disappointed with the progress of this group of players. We played Dublin in the Division 1B league final and we put Declan Hannon at full-forward.

“I’ve had Declan with Mary I and he’s a consummate hurler. I love watching him. People say he’s lazy and he is laid back in that sense but we had him at full-forward and what did we do? We started going for long-range points. What’s the fuzzy thinking behind that? He’s in again next Sunday and needs proper ball.

If I was full-forward on the Limerick team at the moment, I’d be frustrated because it takes so long for the damned ball to come in.”

Cregan, who managed Offaly to All-Ireland glory against his native county in 1994, has also warned that Limerick’s lack of matches against top class opposition could return to haunt them against Tipperary.

“We need to get into the game from the very start. The fact that we’re still down in the second division means that we’re playing at a standard of hurling lower than what it would normally be. It may take 15-20 minutes to adapt and if Tipp get seven, eight or nine points ahead, we may as well throw out hats at it.”

Cregan’s blunt assessment is that “based on present form, Tipperary are going to win.”

And he was concerned by the manner of Limerick’s defeat in Thurles last Friday evening when the counties met in the Munster U21 quarter-final.

Cregan reflected: “If players think that because they’ve got a reputation that they can just coast around the field, then they shouldn’t be on the field.”

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