2020 Green Shoots Cause For Limerick Football Optimism

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WITH 2020 now in the rear view mirror, we have a chance to reflect on all that happened, or sadly in a lot of cases did not happen!

And seeing as “Reeling In The Years” is under time constraints, a 2020 Limerick Football review will probably not make the final cut.

So for posterity sake, the following is a brief look back on some of the Gaelic Football highlights of the year from all those privileged enough to pull on the Green and White jersey.

The flagship team led by Billy Lee had a fantastic start to 2020. Benefitting from the fact that there was very little turnover of players in the panel from 2019 – plus a couple of players being added or returning to the fold – they went on a 7 game winning streak that included McGrath Cup wins over Clare and Cork, as well as a last minute smash and grab in Carlow and a goal fest in Mick Neville Park against Wicklow.

24 October 2020; Tony McCarthy of Limerick in action against Mikey Gordon of Sligo during the Allianz Football League Division 4 Round 7 match between Sligo and Limerick at Markievicz Park in Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Lockdown meant a protracted league finish, and signs weren’t great initially with a poor showing in a loss against Wexford. But when the chips were down and needing a win in the final game up in Sligo, the players produced their best performance of the year to date to finish top of the league and secure promotion.

A fantastic achievement for all involved having worked so hard since 2017, making strides year on year. The confidence this gave the group was evident in the way Waterford were dispatched in the Munster Quarter Final, with the game put to bed in the opening quarter. And this continued into the Semi Final against Tipperary, with a fantastic first half of flowing football. It was a pleasure to watch and showed what Limerick Footballers are capable of when application meets self belief.

Unfortunately, a third quarter collapse meant that lead was wiped out and extra time heartbreak followed. There is no doubt that there was lot of hurt post game, and that hurt was felt even more when the final panned out as it did. Harsh lessons to learn, but a year to be proud of on reflection, and just reward for all involved.

24 October 2020; Donal O’Sullivan of Limerick celebrates scoring a late point during the Allianz Football League Division 4 Round 7 match between Sligo and Limerick at Markievicz Park in Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The second team into the breach were the U20s. A quarter final meeting against Tipperary was a repeat of 2019, and in brutal conditions in Mick Neville Park, a late Barry Coleman point earned a hard fought win for the Jerry O’Sullivan managed side. As with the year previous, the reward for the quarter final win was a match up with Kerry. Unlike the fixture in 2019 though, this was a much tighter affair, with Limerick competing well with their much vaunted opponents.

Unfortunately, Kerry added a few scores in the last quarter to win by 7, and went on to claim the Munster title. There have definitely been green shoots in recent years with this group. The win over Tipperary made it 3 wins over them in the last 4 years at this U20/21 grade. And the majority of the panel are underage again for 2021. Good news for the senior team in the near future.

The final group that eventually got to wear the green jersey were the U17s. A much interrupted championship began in December and saw these young men host Waterford on a cold, crisp Saturday afternoon in the Gaelic Grounds in their opening game. Those few souls in attendance were treated to a fine footballing performance, with the highlight being a David O’Shaughnessy point from a sideline; a score to light up any game! A good all round team performance helped Limerick to a 10 point win over the Deise, and into a semi final against a fancied Clare side the following Wednesday under lights at the Ennis Road venue.

12 December 2020; Darragh Murray of Limerick in action against Oscar Geoghegan of Waterford during the Electric Ireland Munster GAA Football Minor Championship Quarter-Final match between Limerick and Waterford at LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

A blistering start from the Banner meant Limerick were chasing the game from the off and unfortunately were unable to make much inroads. A disappointing end for the players and coaches who put in a huge effort since they started at U14 level in the Football Academy. But I have no doubt that good foundations have been laid and the players and teams they will be on in the future will benefit.

Mungret St Pauls’ Darragh Bridgeman gets his shot off in the Munster Minor Football semi-final between Limerick and Clare. Mandatory Credit: Sport Action Photography

Overall, you would have to say it was very much a year of progress on the football front. The seniors obviously led the way, with promotion in the league a big step in the right direction. Some silverware in the form of the McGrath Cup and Division 4 League trophy were very welcome for a county that doesn’t see enough of it for the efforts put in. The year did end in disappointment in not reaching the Munster final after being in such a commanding position, but that in itself shows that expectations have risen, which can only be a good thing.

Achieving a championship win in every grade isn’t something that has happened for Limerick Football in a long time, and is something that should not be taken for granted. Another positive sign. But more needs to be done to ensure this is the rule rather than the exception. 2020 is in the record books and all eyes are now on what is needed in 2021. We will take a look at that next week. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

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