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Limerick’s Dowling says pull between club and county to remain an issue

Na Piarsaigh face into a Munster campaign looking to repeat All-Ireland run of 2015/2016

Limerick’s Shane Dowling: “I don’t think Limerick are a million miles away, but time will tell.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Two championship games, two defeats, then the rest of the summer to sit around and think about it. Things can only get better for Limerick hurling, although Shane Dowling is not yet convinced the new championship structures will make that task any easier.

The pull between club and county, he says, is likely to remain an issue – even with April being left “free” for club games, before the Munster and Leinster championships are played off on a five-group, round robin basis.

“I would very much be a club person,” says Dowling, speaking at the launch of 2017/2018 AIB Club Championship. “I think clubs should be allowed play games in the summer months as well, but I’m still not sure if that’s going to happen.

“You could be waiting three months for a club game during the summer, then play two back to back, with a six-day turnaround. So I don’t know.

“They’re giving the month of April off, but intercounty managers are still going to want their players before they get into championship. It depends on county boards too, so no one really knows the answer just yet.

“I’m open for change, but I don’t know will it be for the better or worse. Everyone is open to more games, but the round robin will make it very difficult on the panel, between injuries and fatigue. It’s going to be a lot of pressure on the panel, using so many numbers. But I’ve no problem playing more matches.”

Dreaming

After winning their fourth Limerick county title in seven years, Na Piarsaigh now face into a Munster campaign looking to repeat their All-Ireland run of 2015/2016: Cork’s Blackrock await on Sunday week (Dowling himself hopes to recover from a knee in time), while on the county front Dowling makes no secret of his ambitions for 2018

“Look, I go to bed most night dreaming about winning an All-Ireland,” says Dowling. “And that’s no cliché, that’s the reality. But we have the right people involved now, have players that are good enough.

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to win. The next three or four years will tell a lot. There’s a savage amount of work being put in. I think there is optimism there since 2014, but at the same time last year was disappointing.

“Hopefully we can kick on. But as long as everyone is trying their best, and I believe they are, there’s nothing more we can do. The chasing pack aren’t too far behind. I don’t think Limerick are a million miles away, but time will tell.”

Their 2018 schedule is interesting: Tipperary at home, Cork away, Waterford at home, then Clare away; better than 2017 anyway.

New players

That’s it,” he says. “We trained for God knows how many months to play two championship games. Obviously the league is important, but at the end of the day it comes down to championship. It [the round robin] should be of benefit a county like ourselves trying to bring new players.

“There is something about a Munster semi-final, winner takes all, so it won’t replace that. It will be interesting to see what kind of crowds go to these games, because not everyone can afford to go to games week in, week out.”