Collins hopeful returning stars can lift Limerick
MAURICE Horan spoke candidly this week about the difficulties of managing dual players -- and Limerick footballers certainly have some dual jewels in their ranks.
They have a midfielder (Paul Kinnerk) who is the Clare senior hurlers' fitness trainer and a forward who plays All-Ireland League rugby (Stephen Kelly).
Then there's Seamus O'Carroll, who won the All-Ireland handball singles title last weekend, and if John Galvin wasn't out injured, there would also be an Irish league basketball star and former U-19 international among their starters.
"I think you have to be accommodating," Horan said pragmatically. "There is a mentality in Limerick, where guys have access to a wide range of sports and I do think it's possible if it's managed right."
Corner-forward captain Ger Collins is more regular in his dual exploits -- just football and hurling with Monaleen -- but he has seen closely the draw of other sports.
Collins was a county minor hurler alongside Gavin O'Mahony in 2005, but football has always been his main game and he played with Castletroy College against the likes of Tralee CBS in Munster schools' 'A' football (Corn Ui Mhuiri) in a team that produced six Limerick minors.
A year later, Castletroy College made headlines for winning Munster schools' senior rugby cup. One of their stars was Cormac Joyce-Power, who went on to play senior football for Limerick before emigrating to Boston.
This September, the only Limerick team in the Corn U Mhuiri will be a new amalgamation called West Limerick Schools.
That helps explain why Limerick's minor footballers only scored single figures against both Cork and Kerry this summer and why the county seniors have such difficulty finding new players.
Collins made his senior debut when he was just 18 and it's certainly doubtful that many counties would have a 23-year-old captain for their team and his age-profile means that he has his own 'dual' problems at the moment.
A third-year accountancy and finance student at Limerick IT, he sat three exams this week and has two more of his remaining four next week.
"Maurice has been good to me with regards to training because it's been a bit up in the air over the last few weeks," he said.
Limerick's 'dual' problems certainly didn't help them during the Allianz League campaign and in this year's ropey Division 4 ride, which included defeats to Clare, Wicklow and also Waterford, tomorrow's opponents in the Munster SFC opening round.
"We played them in the Gaelic Grounds, it was actually a double-header with the hurlers against Offaly," he recalled of this year's four-point loss in the league's penultimate round.
"Waterford had the two O'Gormans (Maurice and Thomas) back at that stage, they are a big strong physical team and they actually have a very good record against us in the league -- they've beaten us more often than not."
Yet, somehow, Limerick tend to save their best for the summer and they famously had Cork at their mercy back in the 2009 Munster final, but couldn't land the killer blow.
After losing to Kerry last year they beat Offaly, Waterford and Wexford to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals before the Kingdom put paid to them a second time.
This year's league was again pockmarked by absences, and injuries mean that Stephen Kelly, Stephen Lucey and Jim Donovan don't start tomorrow's game.
But Collins says their casualty ward has improved recently and -- with Kerry and Cork on the other side of the draw -- there is a huge opportunity this year to reach a Munster final.
Tom Lee and Mike Sheehan, who were in New Zealand and America during the National League, have since returned and while Jim Donovan is still battling for full fitness, Andrew Lane -- another long-term absentee after hip surgery -- is also on the way back.
"We were struggling with a lot of injuries and stuff earlier this year, but all the lads have been working really hard to get back and hopefully we'll be stronger now," Collins said. "And the earlier problems gave some other lads a chance to impress," he added, with Darragh Treacy, one of last year's minors, one of those who has made his mark.