ALL indicators are that Limerick will make a bold bid to win the upcoming National Hurling League, which opens for the reigning All-Ireland Champions with a tasty encounter against Cork at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday (throw-in 7.30pm).
Inaugurated in 1926, Limerick have emerged as winners of the league on 13 occasions, between 1934 and 2020, and rest just one adrift of third-placed Cork in the Roll of Honour, one which is jointly headed by Kilkenny and Tipperary at 19 titles apiece.
Waterford are the current holders, but early season form didn’t carry through into the following few months back then and the Déise made an early exit from the 2022 championship.
Limerick and eventual winners Cork met recently in the Munster League, with the Leesiders coming through a dogged affair by a single point.
John Kiely’s side had a subsequent successful outing away to Kerry, with the Galbally stalwart giving many fringe players an opportunity to stake a claim for more regular appearances with the flagship county side.
It’s unlikely that Kiely will field his strongest available selection so early in the year and with, for example, the Patrickswell duo of Diarmaid Byrnes and Aaron Gillane both currently unavailable it will free up places for the likes of Kilmallock’s Aaron Costello and David Reidy (Dromin/Athlacca), who has already impressed with his unerring accuracy from frees.
Barry Murphy and Pat Ryan ‘Simon’, both of Doon, are others also very much back in the mix, while lively Monaleen pair Donnacha Ó Dálaigh and Mark O’Dwyer have both joined the panel of late. Others such as Mark Quinlan (Garryspillane), Adare’s Ronan Connolly, Micheál Houlihan (Kilmallock), Jimmy Quilty and Shane O’Brien of Blackrock are all sure to be in the selectors’ thoughts.
It’s anticipated that David McCarthy of Glenroe will line-out in goals, thus affording a welcome break for regular Nickie Quaid.
And, there’s every chance that Cian Lynch will make an appearance on Leeside this weekend.
Limerick manager John Kiely will name his team tonight at 9pm.