LIMERICK will begin an ultra-competitive National Football Division Two League campaign with a 700km round trip to face Ulster Champions Derry at Owenbeg on Saturday (throw-in 3pm).
Derry were runaway winners of the McKenna Cup Final against Tyrone at the weekend.
The Division also includes heavyweights such as Dublin, Meath, and Cork, along with Clare, Kildare, and Louth.
It was under Newcastle West’s Billy Lee that Limerick secured promotion to this tier last season, but he has since passed on the baton to Ray Dempsey of Mayo.
It’s fanciful to suggest Limerick will win all their games against such strong opposition and they are 100/1 shots to claim the Division outright.
Limerick, however, have three competitive matches under the belt already in 2023, easily getting over the line against Waterford, drawing away to Tipperary, and delivering a reasonable performance against Cork in the McGrath Cup Final in Mallow at the weekend.
Survival in Division Two will probably need a couple of victories, and management will have earmarked some fixtures where points are possible, such as against Louth (away), Kildare (home), and Clare (away). Even an odd draw, coupled with a win, would be sufficient to avoid relegation.
Ahead of the team announcement on Thursday night, Dempsey and his fellow selectors – Martin Barrett and Michael Downey, along with coaches Anthony Maher, Eoin Joy, Mark Fitzgerald, and John Chawke – will have studied in depth coverage of their McGrath Cup Final loss to John Cleary’s Cork, a contest in which Limerick found scores from play extremely difficult.
Still, Limerick will have been reasonably pleased with goals taken by captain Iain Corbett from the penalty spot and veteran Davy Lyons.
Limerick’s team for the trip north is certain to feature regulars such as goalkeeper Donal O’Sullivan (Monaleen), Adare’s David Connolly, Brian Fanning (Pallasgreen), Iain Corbett of Newcastle West, Cillian Fahy (Dromcollogher/Broadford), Na Piarsaigh’s Gordon Brown, Cian Sheehan (Newcastle West), and Adrian Enright, Fr Casey’s.
Derry boss Rory Gallagher has plenty of talent at his disposal, evidence of which was in their 12-point victory in the McKenna Cup Final.