Ian Ryan set to return from injury to bolster score-shy Limerick

It took John Brudair’s team 45 minutes to muster a point in their last league defeat

Remarkably it took Limerick 45 minutes to muster their first point against Tipperary in the last round of the Allianz Football League, a game manager John Brudair says they honestly played well in. So if it's just score-getting that's their problem, the imminent return of talisman Ian Ryan this weekend is sure to transform the mood in the Treaty County from downbeat despondency to revitalised optimism with a propitious tickle.

Perhaps it won't be that straightforward but Ryan's return will certainly help a Limerick panel who have been up against it so far this year. Arguably the county's greatest ever footballer John Galvin retired over the off-season, while the management have also had to contend without the services of atleast six other regulars from last year's team who had either been ruled out through injury or thus far have not committed to the cause for 2015 . That list included last year's entire full forward line headed of course by Ryan.

The marksman returned to training in the week after the Tipperary loss, having taken time out to clear up ongoing injury concerns which have disrupted his fitness in recent seasons. Ryan is now set to feature in some capacity in the next round of the league against Armaghon Sunday.

Considering the absentees Limerick’s league so far has to be taken into context. They actually started the league off with a one-point home victory against Sligo, and despite the eventual 1-02 to 1-14 defeat in round two the management team are insistently content with the performance against Tipperary last Sunday.

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With just two forwards scoring against Sligo, mustering just 0-3 from play between them, and no starting forward scoring whatsoever against Tipperary, it’s clear to see that the team are struggling to come by white and green flags.

“We actually did very well against Tipperary but we missed eight frees before we scored and having Ian back will guarantee at least five or six of those at least so he’s a huge addition,” says Brudair who lead the team to two championship victories last year.

“It’s just unfortunate that the one area we’ve been really hit in is the forward-line, especially in winter conditions in the league where scores are very hard to come by. Our whole full-forwad line from last year has been missing.

“Ian is back training so all going well we’ll have him back now for the next game - and he’ll be like a who new player for us. Especially after the last game where we were doing well but just couldn’t score.”

Also back in the green and white for the next league game against last year's All-Ireland quarter-finalists, where no doubt all able bodies will be required, is centre back Stephen Lucey has also returned to training. Yet his manager insits that the 34-year-old will have to show his form to ensure his inclusion in an area where the team have thus far been impressive.

“Stephen is back for us too now, but yes he’ll be competing with a lot of young players there and it won’t be a case of him just walking back in there.”

Making up the list of six, last year’s regular corner-back Mark O’Riordain, and half-back Pa Ranahan. Both have so far been unable to commit due to personal and work realted reasons although the duo have shown an intent to get back involved in the fold as soon as possible.

Whereas Ryan's full-forward line colleagues last year, Eoin Hanrahan and Ger Collins, both look unlikely to feature in the 2015 season.

Hanrahan has given his commitment to soccer, whilst Collins has requested to “take a break” and he has not given a time limit on such to set a return.

Meanwhile Longford will have to plan without last year's midfielder John Keegan. The 6ft 4' teacher has taken a year out due to work demands and in order to travel. The loss could be filled by the possible return of the county's former regular midfielder Kevin Smyth.

A constant in the side up until 2010 when he emigrated to America, still not 30 the player's possible interest in a return to the county set-up is said to have alerted manager Jack Sheedy. His transfer back to the Abbeylara club was completed earlier this month although he has not yet relocated.

Although his younger brother Robbie, one of the county’s most talented underage players in recent years who was involved in last year’s senior panel, is another to have opted to take the year out.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a sports journalist with The Irish Times