Steven O’Brien made an interesting observation after helping DCU to Sigerson glory this time last year. He admitted: “There aren’t too many Tipperary lads who go to college to play football, or, indeed, come away from college with a Sigerson medal.”
However minuscule the figure may be, Ian Ryan reckons it would pale in comparison to neighbours Limerick.
The Limerick vice-captain kept a close eye on proceedings in Belfast last weekend as the University of Limerick made their first appearance at the Sigerson weekend since 1997.
Four of his Treaty colleagues — Gearóid Hegarty, Danny Neville, Cian Sheehan, and Kevin Moore — were named on the UL team for their semi-final bout against UCD, with James Naughton and Paul White sprung from the bench.
Unused subs Sean McAuliffe and Tony McCarthy brought to eight the number of Limerick players on Brian Carson’s panel.
In total, nine Limerick footballers were present in Jordanstown last Friday and Saturday; Kilteely defender Seán O’Dea, lining out in the UCD colours, returning south with a Sigerson medal in the back pocket.
O’Dea started and finished Friday’s semi-final contest, introduced late on in the decider the following afternoon.
And like O’Brien 12 months before him, he was by no means out of place.
“I think it is a reflection of the work put in by John Brudair and his management team over the last three years,” said Ryan of the sizeable Limerick contingent involved on the most important weekend of the third-level GAA calendar.
“The management have really targeted the players in the 18-21 age bracket. You can see huge strides being made there. Going back the years, how many Limerick footballers had a Sigerson medal? How many fellas played in the weekend? I’d say you could nearly count them in the one hand.
“There was nine there last weekend. That was fantastic. It is great to see players coming through who are playing at the highest level. Club football in Limerick wouldn’t be of the same standard in other counties so you need players playing at a high level outside of the inter-county game. Last weekend would have been a great experience for them.”
Ryan continued: “You look at the young players coming through, there is fantastic ability there. Five, six years ago, there was very little coming through.”
O’Dea, Hegarty, Sheehan, and Neville are all expected to be present inside the whitewash tomorrow afternoon as Brudair’s side go in search of their first win of the Division 3 campaign. Having been reeled in from a winning position by both Tipperary and Longford in the opening fortnight, and with a trip to Newbridge facing them next weekend, Ryan can’t emphasise enough the importance of taking maximum points from the clash with Clare.
“Aside from the two points, in a tight division like this it could easily come down to head-to-head. Every victory matters. Last year, someone was relegated on a head-to-head basis. It is very important to be getting wins against teams close to you,” he said.
“The target was two points from the opening two games, especially with Tipperary missing the Clonmel boys.
“We felt we had an opportunity to pick up two points where a lot of teams wouldn’t. We played well in both games. We were unlucky not to win at least one, if not both games.
“Instead, we drew with Tipp and then lost to Longford. Overall, it is disappointing we have not got a win.
“You need to get points on the board as quick as possible. Three out of six wouldn’t be bad. There are six teams within two points of each other in our division. A win can take you out of trouble and a loss can put you in trouble. It is very touch and go.”
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