Limerick face a mammoth task when they welcome Kerry to Newcastle West tonight in the Munster U-20 Football Championship quarter final.
Kerry have won the last four All-Ireland Minor Football Championship’s and will be backboned by many players from those sides.
Despite adverse results in recent times Limerick team manager Martin Horgan thinks that whatever the result tonight, football in the county is on an upward curve.
“I think it’s exciting times for Limerick football,” said Horgan. “I’m under no illusions. My task at the start of the season was to develop an environment and culture where these guys could play football and football in a way that I feel football should be played – nice attacking football.
“Limerick have guys like Rob Childs, Padraig McGrath and Daniel Enright. We have been lucky enough to get Oran Collins and Colm McSweeney down from the seniors.
“Throw in Barry Coleman who is very, very young, Calvin Moran. The list of names go on. I think it’s really exciting for Limerick football.”
Horgan’s positive outlook on the future of football in Limerick is refreshing given the fortunes of the senior side in 2018 who exited the season with two massive defeats to Clare and Mayo.
The Castleisland man cast his net wide and far to bring fresh talent for the new competition that is in its infancy this year.
— Limerick GAA (@LimerickCLG) June 14, 2018
“Back in January we had a recruitment drive in and around Limerick where we wanted to express interest in the clubs for guys that didn’t come through the Development Squads system,” Horgan explained.
“We put an open invitation to a lot of the clubs around Limerick and we also wanted to integrate the guys that did come through the Academy to see where we were going and what we were doing long term.
“We viewed 74 players which was quite exciting and spent six weeks bringing the 74 down to 31. In the last 15 or 16 weeks we have been focusing on those 31.”
Horgan said that he has enjoyed the challenge of putting together a group of players for the challenge that Kerry will bring to Newcastle West.
“Preparations have been good. They have been challenging and very interesting. We are at a level where we are dealing with 17,18 and 19 year olds that have a lot going on in their lives.
“The Leaving Cert, first year in college, club football. Some are duel players, rugby and soccer. They have a lot going and I think that we have to respect the fact that they want to play football for Limerick. We want to coach them to play football for Limerick and so it’s about finding a balance.”
Limerick face a massive uphill challenge against a vastly experienced Kerry side that are 7/4 favourites to win the All-Ireland but Horgan is relishing the task ahead.
“The challenge is exciting and it’s one that we are ready for,” he said. “It’s something that the players have bought into and we are certainly going to give it a great shot.
“They are one of the best opponents out there. Kerry have high expectations and we have expectations of our own but it’s a challenge that we are really prepared for.
“We have been putting our shoulder to the wheel for the last five months and hopefully we won’t be found wanting.”
The game in Newcastle West has a 7pm throw in and will be refereed by Cork’s James Bermingham.
Limerick Team: Mark O’Callaghan (Ballylanders); Cillian Ferris (Ballysteen), Karl Maloney (Crecora-Manister), Adam Riordan (Fr Caseys); Oran Collins (Adare), Daniel Enright (Monaleen), Lee Woulfe (Newcastle West); Rob Childs (Galtee Gaels), Colm McSweeney (Gerald Griffins); Padraig McGrath (Galtee Gaels), Adam Storan (Mungret St Pauls), Liam Kennedy (St Kierans); Calvin Moran (St Patrick’s), Adam Kearns (St Senan’s), Barry Coleman (Rathkeale).
Subs: Cian Walsh (St Senans), James Cummins (Galbally), Adam Lacey (Knockaderry), Evan Gilvarry (Na Piarsaigh), Nathan Byrnes (Galbally), Gearoid Brennan (Claughaun), Darragh Lane (Adare), Jack Downey (Oola), Diarmaid Kelly (Newcastle West).