COMPETITIVE football in Limerick returned over the weekend with twelve games played across the Senior, Intermediate and Junior ranks.
Plenty of storylines emerged from the games and Jack Neville looks at some of those below.
Recent winners lay down markers of intent
The Limerick Senior Football Championship returned on Saturday evening as familiar faces reigned supreme. In Mick Neville Park, reigning Champions Newcastle West had 12-points to spare against Drom Broadford while Adare went that bit better as they beat Na Piarsaigh by 3-14 to 1-4 in Clarina.
Between them they have won 4 of the last 5 championships and even in this early stage, they look like the teams to beat, despite four of the twelve teams not having kicked a ball in the championship thus far.
Having seen Newcastle up close and personal on Saturday, the strength in depth among the squad is frightening.
They strolled to victory against Drom without the services of Darren O’Doherty, Mike O’Leary, Sean Murphy, AJ O’Connor and Jamie Lee, to name a few.
While Lee’s loss for the year is immense, Cian Sheehan was reintroduced to the football scene on Saturday and hasn’t missed a bit as he stroked home a lovely score on his introduction.
Eoin Hurley, Iain Corbett and Shane Stack combined for 2-10 alone as Newcastle never really got out of second gear.
And while it was against a Drom side in transition, the quality was evident throughout.
Similarly, Adare look determined from the outset to recapture the title they won in 2017 and ’18.
Goals from Mark Connoly, Shane Costello and Shane O’Connor helped them to a 16-point win, albeit against a depleted Na Piarsaigh side.
Nonetheless, after falling to the Magpies last year, Adare seem focused early, with the two on a collision course in the knockout stages.
Of course, it is very early and neither will be in action for a fortnight but the signs from the opening weekend are ominous for the competition.
St Kierans feel the effects of absentees
Undoubtedly, the loss of Darragh Treacy and Sean McSweeney to the Limerick Senior set up this year was a blow to Billy Lee and his management team. However, their loss to St Kierans far exceeds that as was shown in Kilmallock yesterday.
Galbally lead from start to finish and now the West side must face Monaleen knowing another set back would guarantee a spot in the relegation play-offs.
Last summer, in the final group game, St Kierans completely dominated the South side and had 18 points to spare in a 4-15 to 1-6 victory.
They would then go on to contest the semi-finals where they lost to Oola after holding the lead at the break.
Now, relegation is a stark possibility with the their keymen absent for the year.
However, the victory cannot be taken away from Galbally who were full value for the win and are now in pole position to qualify for the knockout stages after mustering just one victory in 2019.
The influence of Jerome Stack was clear yesterday and even without James Ryan, Galbally always looked relatively comfortable.
Oola’s experience pays dividends against Intermediate Champions
Looking at the first ten minutes of action in the clash between Galtee Gaels and Oola last night, a neutral would have assumed the team in maroon contested last year’s final while the red outfit were new to the grade.
Galtee Gaels stormed into the game and had the first four scores. The lead could have been more with Galtee Gaels kicking a couple of wides with a real goal chance also sailing over the bar.
However, the concession of two soft frees allowed Oola gain a foothold in the game and in truth they never eased up as they overcame the deficit to lead by the time the half came to a close.
They had opened up a six-point lead within minutes of the restart, with Fiachra O’Grady finishing to the net after a brilliantly worked team goal.
From here Galtee Gaels could not find an opening in a solid Oola defence who shut up shop but continued to strike on the break.
Galtee Gaels will have learned from the defeat but will no face Ballylanders who contested the 2018 final.
As for Oola, the manner of victory will be very pleasing for Kem Downey as he had to make do without eleven of their 2019 county final panel.
One sided victories in the IFC
In the second tier of Limerick football, only a pair of games got the green light to go ahead with both ending in landslide victories. 2017 kingpins St Senans had 13-points to spare against Glin while Mungret defeated Monaleen by 16.
The manner of both those victories highlight the disparity in quality between the top and bottom sides in the grades with Monaleen’s second team now having to face Kildimo Pallaskenry while Glin meet Bruff in the next round.
Those victories look to have secured safe passage for both sides, barring a huge victory for one of the losers in their next games or a collapse in Round 2 in a fortnight’s time.
St Senans will be keen to bounce back to the Senior grade at the first time of asking after a number of near misses in the IFC when they were relegated in 2012.
As for Mungret, the win will provide a boost to the side after they took Galtee Gaels to extra-time in the semi-finals of the competition.
Still we are yet to see last year’s finalists Gerald Griffins or the likes of Rathkeale and St Patricks but the bar has been set fairly high already.
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