THE Limerick Senior Footballers dreams of a second successive promotion were dashed last weekend as they lost to Derry in the National Football League Division 3 semi-final in Carrick on Shannon.
Billy Lee’s side eventually fell to a 0-17 to 0-13 defeat but trailed for the majority of the game against the Oak Leafers who secured promotion for the second time in three years.
Hugh Bourke, who was sensational on the day finishing with 0-7, kicked Limerick ahead midway through the first quarter, but that would be the last time that Limerick held the lead on the day, despite being level four times in the first half and only trailing by a point at the break.
Nonetheless, when the Shannonsiders reflect on their first League campaign back in Division 3, there will be few complaints from Lee’s squad.
Their opening day win over Tipperary not only demonstrated that they were ready for the division but also laid to rest the dramatic defeat suffered in the Munster semi-final last November.
Danny Neville’s exquisite solo goal set the tone on that day as Limerick held off another late onslaught from the Premier County.
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The following week, an experienced Offaly team reminded Limerick of the step up in quality among the Divisions as their superior efficiency left Limerick with the task of travelling to Aughrim in a bid to avoid a relegation play off and instead earn a promotion clash on the final day.
Against Wicklow, Limerick flattered to deceive in the first half with the hosts grabbing a crucial goal to keep in touch.
That was until a devastating three minute spell in the second period from Bourke and Neville put the contest to bed as Limerick ran out comfortable ten point winners in one of Ireland’s most difficult stadiums.
The Derry game proved a step too far for Lee’s men, although they never gave up in Leitrim despite the gulf between the teams.
A 50% record from their first venture back in the third division is no shame for Limerick, especially considering two of last years provincial champions in Tipperary and Cavan were relegated to the bottom tier.
Attention will now shift to the Munster championship quarter-final clash against Waterford with plenty of lessons learnt from the league campaign.
Lee seems to have a settled side at his disposal with just 18 players named from the start during the League. Six of the back seven that began proceedings in Carrick, started each of the three group games with the exception of Iain Corbett who featured from the bench in the game against Tipperary.
Ahead of them, Tommie Childs and Darragh Treacy were ever presents at midfield.
There does still to be room for maneuvering in the forward line however. Danny Neville, Hugh Bourke and Cillian Fahy started each of the games and are shoo-ins to start against Waterford barring injury. Outside of that, there appears to be positions up for grabs.
Robbie Bourke began the last two contests and is in pole position to join his brother Hugh in the forward ranks.
Adrian Enright started three games and was a mainstay of the 2020 promotion winning side while Cian Sheehan, Brian Donovan and Tommy Griffin were all handed starting berths during the league.
Time is quickly running out for players to impress with the championship tie against Waterford less than a fortnight away.
Regardless, after another positive league journey for Limerick, there is huge potential for a lengthy summer run in the championship.