FOR LIMERICK, the big prize that accompanied the historic five-in-a-row in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship was a four-week break before the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park (Saturday, July 8).
Both beaten provincial finalists, Clare (v Dublin) and Galway (v Tipperary), will be engaged in quarter-final action in a bumper double-header at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday, while the Munster and Leinster (Kilkenny) champions will both have a further fortnight of rest period before an eagerly anticipated reappearance.
The gap in fixtures unfortunately isn’t sufficient for inspirational captain Declan Hannon, who has been ruled out for the upcoming All-Ireland semi-final with a knee issue, one that could also keep him on the sidelines for a possible championship final outing just two weeks later.
Cian Lynch, who didn’t feature at all in the Munster final, is also under pressure to be fit for July 8.
In the enforced absence of Hannon, Kiely will most likely opt for Kyle Hayes at centre-back and introduce Ballybrown’s Colin Coughlan at number seven.
Limerick have already lost four-time All-Star Seán Finn this season due to an ACL issue.
On the gap between the Munster and All-Ireland semi, Limerick manager John Kiely said: “It’s a great opportunity. We managed the four weeks last year. We’ve done it in the past. We know our routine – it’s nailed down. Everybody knows what to expect before I say it.
“They know exactly what is going to happen each week between now and the All-Ireland semi-final.”
Kiely continued: “We know our routine. We’re a team that works according to our routines. It’s not an issue for us. Yes, it’s an opportunity for us to recharge, and opportunity for a few guys to get a few little bits and pieces together in terms of their own preparation, fitness levels, knocks and bumps and lumps, and just take a break.”
After a week of downtime, the Limerick squad returned to full-on collective training at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday, just ahead of their colleague’s unsuccessful Tailteann Cup quarter-final meeting with Laois.