LIMERICK head into their final Division 3 ‘South’ clash with a 50% record after falling to Offaly in Tullamore at the weekend.
Billy Lee’s side were level at the half and seven times in total during the contest, but Offaly’s composure told with a number of key scores down the stretch earning a 0-16 to 1-11 victory.
Offaly currently occupy top spot in the Division with two wins from two with Limerick and Tipp joined on one win apiece while Wicklow have yet to win.
Ahead of the trip to Aughrim, check out some of the key talking points to emerge from the Tullamore clash.
Offaly do their homework
While Offaly’s Round One win over Wicklow in Aughrim was a story in itself, the main talking point coming from the opening weekend in Division 3 ‘South’ was Limerick’s win over the reigning Munster champions Tipperary. Billy Lee’s side were in high spirits coming into the Tullamore on Saturday but had the shackles put on them quickly by the home side.
Obviously identifying the attacking threat of Danny Neville and Hugh Bourke, who bagged 1-9 between them against Tipperary, Offaly were quick to smother the duo whenever they received the ball. While Limerick found it very difficult to get the ball into the inside men, when they did, they were faced with a number of Offaly defenders. Limerick were made to work extremely lucky for their scores limiting the pair to scraps.
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The want of trying was not absent from any of the Limerick contingent but they struggled against Offaly’s defensive set-up that saw them break quickly when possession was turned over. This allowed them to kick their scores far easier whilst wasting minimal energy.
Places up for grabs in Lee’s side
For the second consecutive week, Billy Lee made two last hour changes to his starting XV, with Iain Corbett and Brian O’Donovan coming into the team against Offaly. The previous week Michael Donovan and Adrian Enright were called in from the start. However, three of those changes have come in the forward ranks with the Lee seemingly settled on his defence. Donal O’Sullivan is Limerick’s undisputed goalkeeper with Brian Fanning and Sean O’Dea assured of their places in front of him. Michael Donovan and Paul Maher seem in a straight shoot out for the number 4 jersey.
In the half back line, Tony McCarthy and Gordon Brown have made the jerseys their own while Robbie Childs has slotted in brilliantly at centre back. In midfield, Darragh Treacy and Tommie Childs have partnered very well since the St Kieran’s man return to the fold last year.
Up front, Neville and Bourke are certain starters in the full forward line while Cillian Fahy has been Lee’s choice at 11 for a number of years now. Iain Corbett is also certain to start somewhere on the field.
That leaves two places definitely up for grabs in the forward line with a number of options for Lee to choose from. We have seen Enright, Brian O’Donovan, Tommy Griffin, Josh Ryan, Cian Sheehan, Peter Nash, Seamus O’Carroll and Ger Stack so far in the League but none have nailed down the spot for sure.
This fight for places is sure to heat up further as the championship approaches and will provide a welcome headache for Lee as they look to seal a promotion spot.
It all comes down to Aughrim
After spending four years in bottom tier of the league, Limerick’s main aim from this year will have been to maintain their place in Division 3 heading into 2022. A win against Wicklow won’t guarantee safety with the result between Tipperary and Offaly also crucial to Limerick’s hopes. An Offaly win and Limerick draw/win will see the Shannonsiders into the semi-finals of the Division. Similarly, a draw in the other game combined with a Limerick win will see Billy Lee’s side advance as runners up.
Should Tipp get the win in Tullamore and Limerick win in Aughrim, then it will come down to scoring difference with Limerick, Tipp and Offaly all finishing on four points. Currently, Offaly are +6, Tipp are +1 and Limerick are on 0. Similarly, a Wicklow win coupled with an Offaly win will see Limerick, Tipp and Wicklow all finish on two points in second with goal difference the deciding factor.
Nonetheless, as always with Billy Lee’s side, performance will be the number one objective heading to Wicklow on Saturday. Aughrim has proved an extremely difficult venue for Limerick with 2010 the last time the Shannonsiders picked up a point there with a 0-14 to 1-11 draw. There were defeats in Wicklow in 2012 and 2019. However, Limerick were very impressive in the 5-10 to 1-14 win over the Leinster side in Rathkeale last Spring.
In their final league game last year, Limerick proved their mental resolve in travelling to Sligo to pick up the win that secured promotion and a similar performance will be needed this Saturday in an even more difficult arena.
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