Limerick optimistic ahead of Kilkenny clash

Limerick have been taking an internal approach to Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier against Kilkenny, according to captain James Ryan.

The county lost a second successive opener in the province but fielding five debutants and missing a host of players through injury there is optimism ahead of the trip to Nowlan Park.

A defeat would mean their earliest championship exit since 2004 when hey were beaten by Tipperary in a backdoor first round game in the Gaelic Grounds.

Given Limerick have only known the identity of their opponents since Monday, it makes sense that their focus is primarily on themselves.

“This championship format, you build yourself up for your Munster game since before Christmas and then unfortunately we lost it again,” says Ryan. “You’re in no man’s land then for a week or two but then you dust yourself off. It’s all about mindset now. We’ve a lot of good training done since before Christmas so it’s about getting back up on the horse. You have to go back and analyse the game where things went wrong and where you can improve. It’s more about looking at yourself than the opposition at this stage.

“Life is the same as sport — if you dwell on things when you’re down you’re not going to go very far. We wanted to be in a Munster final and that’s stating the obvious but we can’t fixate on that now. We want to learn from what happened against Clare. It’s about focusing on ourselves.

“We were unlucky with a couple of injuries but we had 15 out on the field so we’re not making any excuses. The positives were that we had a lot of young fellas and we blooded them — five debutants, a third of our team.

“The flow of the game, we wouldn’t have been happy with. I can’t speak for the rest of the team but I left the field feeling we could have done more. We didn’t bring everything we were doing in training to the match.”

Limerick seemed to play a more direct style against Clare but Ryan feels they have to mix and match. “I just think we all see hurling and football has changed and in a game with a lot changes if you stay playing the same way you could be left behind. I don’t think any team can afford to be playing a particular style all of the time.

“A lot of the times it’s Limerick’s work-rate and passion that gets us into positions to win and no matter what style you’re playing you can have that. If you have the heart and the discipline then that’s what matters. It wasn’t there for long enough periods against Clare.”

Against the Banner, teenager Kyle Hayes impressed when brought out from full-forward to wing-forward. His ball-winning ability will be tested by Kilkenny but Ryan is optimistic about him and the other youngsters in the group. “Kyle was on the minor team last year and Peter played in the colleges final last year and these are young guys. I’m sure their first championship experience is something they will always remember. A first game doesn’t go well for a lot of people and there’s a lot of hype and attention and phone-calls from family but Kyle and the boys all performed quite well.

“Unfortunately, we lost but they are over it now and go into the qualifiers for the first time and maybe we need to play more with that youth and the unknown and it might suit us better.”


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