Daly understands Limerick’s pain
Clare’s six-point win in the second round is unlikely to have any great bearing
Shane O'Donnell of Clare battles for possession with Cork’s Brian Murphy when the two sides met in Division One A last month. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
It’s impossible not to feel some sympathy for Limerick hurling right now, as even Dublin manager Anthony Daly concedes.
Daly’s team may have beaten them by a single point in last weekend’s Division One final, ensuring promotion to hurling’s top table, but that narrow swing could have gone either way, the heavy consequence for Limerick being the realisation of a fourth successive league season away from that table.
“Hurling is a crazy sport like that,” said Daly. “Delighted to get the win, just get out of this division, because we were very disappointed to get relegated (last year). We felt we out-hurled them in Croke Park (earlier in the league) and lost. And John Allen can feel that way after this.”
And Allen did: he even admitted that instead of losing by a point they might as well have lost by 10, because “no doubt about it, playing in Division One A is where you want to be”.
It’s also impossible to ignore the suggestion this week that Limerick may have to look at smaller venues next season, when opening the Gaelic Grounds to play the likes of Antrim and Carlow is simply not financially sustainable. That’s hard on a team that, after three regular league seasons, boasts a record of 14 wins, two draws and one loss.
There is, in other words, no consolation, especially not that Limerick pressed Dublin so hard, or that they can always try as hard again next year. However, what Allen may now keep an eye on, if he has the stomach for it, is Sunday’s Division One A relegation play-off between Cork and Clare, the losers of which will be joining Limerick in the so-called lower division next year.
It’s perhaps somewhat fitting that Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds provides the venue, although neither Clare nor Cork will fancy the trip, knowing what’s at stake – and perhaps wondering how they ever allowed themselves get into this position.
Both teams started out well in the league, Cork scoring a decisive win over Tipperary in their first round, and Clare certainly looking the part when they then beat Cork in the second round.
However, when it came to that famously decisive round of games on Easter Sunday – when all six teams in the division could have made the semi-finals, or indeed face this relegation play-off – it was Cork and Clare who were left at the bottom.
Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy was being philosophical about this scenario in the aftermath of their final round defeat to Kilkenny, as narrow as it was: “It’s just the nature of the league,” he said, “but I suppose it gives us something to play for now. I don’t think anyone wants to go down there, really.”
That’s what they’ll be fighting for – or rather raging against – on Sunday: Clare’s six-point win in Páirc Uí Rinn back in the second round is unlikely to have any great bearing, beyond suggesting the comeback powers of Davy Fitzgerald’s team, given they trailed that game 0-12 to 0-7 at half-time.
However, Fitzgerald has a number of injury concerns going into Sunday’s game, including midfielder Nicky O’Connell and forward Seán Collins, O’Connell troubled by a back injury.
Cathal McInerney is among those already ruled out, although there are hopes that Conor McGrath is now fit to start, having proved his form with his club Cratloe in recent weeks. Forward Colin Ryan is also the Division One A top scorer, with his 0-48, two more than Galway’s Joe Canning.