Ex-Limerick manager Tom Ryan has described the county failure to get out of Division 1B as "a major setback".
In a bitterly disappointing four days for the county, TJ Ryan’s side lost to Offaly in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday which, combined with other results, ended their hopes of promotion to Division 1A for another season.
Kilmallock were outclassed by 12 points against Ballyhale Shamrocks in the All-Ireland club final on Tuesday. Ryan labelled Kilmallock’s defeat as “a non-event” while he expressed concern about the lack of progress in the league. “It’s a huge disappointment for Limerick but it hasn’t sunk in yet within the county,” he said of their unsuccessful promotion bid.
“It’s a disaster for Limerick, not to be campaigning in Division 1A. We really need that because of the quality of the opposition and the standard of games. We’re missing out on that and I think there was a bit of complacency. We were beginning to believe what was being said about us in the media, that we were automatic winners. To tell you the truth, I thought we would have had enough experience, after what we showed in last year’s championship, to be able to win that division.
“The draw against Waterford was a setback, there was a bit of luck in beating Wexford and nobody saw the result against Offaly coming. It’s not good to again be where we’ve been the last few years.”
From a Division 1B base the last two seasons, Limerick have beaten Tipperary twice on the way to reaching All-Ireland semi-finals and capturing a Munster title. But Ryan doesn’t want to hear that the lack of Division 1A hurling this year won’t dent the county’s All-Ireland aspirations. “Those are excuses,” he says. “If you look at the way Cork have benefitted from playing in Division 1A, you can see what good it would do Limerick as well. The likes of Tipperary are moving further away from Limerick. I’m a great believer in winning and confidence being built in winning. If you’re in any other realm you’re in make-believe. There isn’t a whole lot of room for that in hurling.”
Although he believes Limerick should have topped Division 1B regardless, Ryan does suggest they, like Kilkenny, haven’t been helped by being without some of their club-tied stars. “The club championship has had a direct bearing on this. If you look at the club final and the hype and the bullshit that went on here in Limerick for the last month, it was unbelievable. The whole thing got carried away.
“When your county team is without your county champions’ players, it definitely weakens your position and you can see the same with Kilkenny who haven’t had their Ballyhale players and are now in a relegation final. There is a direct relationship between the two at this time.
“I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about this for awhile and I think the club season should finish in the calendar year. It has become a factor for counties. Then look at the poor quality of the finals. There is too much emphasis on St Patrick’s Day, too much hype and the hurling is not living up to its billing.”
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