BILLY Lee and his Limerick footballers will seek to do the unthinkable this Saturday as they head to the Kingdom to take on Kerry in the Munster Senior Football Championship final.
Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney will host the meeting of the sides with referee Martin McNally of Monaghan set to kick off proceedings at 3pm.
This will be the eighth meeting of the sides in the provincial decider with the Shannonsiders yet to claim a scalp over Kerry.
It is a fourteenth Munster final overall for Lee’s men with just the one victory to show for their efforts, coming 126-years ago in Mallow as the Shannonsiders defeated Waterford 0-4 to 0-1.
That victory drew Limerick level with Kerry in the Munster football roll of honour after the Kingdom’s victory over Cork four years previously.
Since then, however, Kerry have not only dominated the fixture between the pair, but the Munster championship overall.
The Kingdom have added 81 more titles in the meantime, winning over 60% of provincial titles since the inaugural title in 1888.
Indeed, Kerry have won nine of the last eleven titles on offer. In 2020 and 2012 respectively, they were beaten by Cork in the last four with the Rebels going on to claim the title in ’12 but falling to Tipperary two years ago.
Limerick will take little solace from the fact that since 1936, just twice have Kerry or Cork failed to win the championship, Tipp in 2020 and Clare back in 1992.
That Banner victory came twelve months after Limerick’s fifth most recent Munster final appearance where they pushed the Kingdom all the way in this weekend’s venue.
A Kerry side, with the likes of Pat Spillane and Jack O’Shea at their disposal, got off to the perfect start as they hit the net with a penalty.
But Limerick rallied to lead at the break. Yet, belief seemed to be the only difference between the sides as despite hitting 2-11 from play during the game, the Treaty men fell to a 0-23 to 3-12 defeat.
Limerick were victims too in 2003 losing by five but when the sides met in a rematch the following year, there was no separating the sides as they finished deadlocked in the Gaelic Grounds.
Kerry had too much in the rematch, claiming a 3-10 to 2-9 victory. The most recent final meeting of the teams came twelve years ago, when a inspired Limerick pushed the defending All-Ireland champions to the brink levelling late on. But Kerry showed their class to claim a three-point win in Fitzgerald Stadium.
The following year, they met in the Munster championship where Kerry were imperious in a 1-26 to 3-9 win. The sides were paired once more that year in the All-Ireland quarter-final as Kerry claimed a 1-20 to 0-10 victory.
And while history has certainly been far from kind for Limerick in this fixture, that will count for little as Billy Lee and co travel to the All-Ireland favourites.
Kerry have been installed as 16 points favourites for the game and this should only serve as further motivation for Limerick who have been on a steady upward curve in recent years.
A first Munster championship win of any kind in seven years arrived in 2019 and since then Limerick have won three successive provincial quarter-finals.
Earlier this month, they bridged a 12-year gap to successive championship wins which set up this weekend’s encounter.
Victories over Clare and Tipperary cannot be scoffed at for Limerick who will be in Division 2 of the League for the first time in sixteen years next Spring.
But, Kerry will be the only team on the lips of the team as they look to prove the country wrong.
Already this year, the side have travelled to Belfast, Aughrim, Portaloaise, Ennis and Thurles and picked up victories. Another in Killarney would etch Lee’s side into the history books.
An almost impossible task but this side have developed a habit of proving the doubters wrong.
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