Treaty due rub of green -- O'Sullivan
LIMERICK might have ridden their luck a little in Saturday's qualifier win over Wexford but, as former manager Mickey Ned O'Sullivan points out, it was high time their fortunes changed.
The All-Ireland champions came from Munster in four of the five seasons that the Kerry All-Ireland-winning captain spent in Limerick. And in that time, the Treaty men came within a hair's breadth of scalping Munster's Old Firm. In just over 12 months, they played Cork twice and Kerry once in the championship and lost those three games by a cumulative total of just six points.
And if the breaks in big games have been unkind, then the back-door draw has been cruel.
After a one-point Munster final defeat to Cork when the Rebels bagged two late goals in 2009, the draw gave them Meath. The Royals had no shortage of motivation after their humiliation at the hands of O'Sullivan's men the previous season, when at one stage Limerick led by 20 points. Limerick might still have won the '09 game when, at the end of normal time, Stephen Lucey kicked what looked to be the equalising point only to be called back for a step too many.
Last year after Kerry edged them out in the Munster final; they were handed Cork and brought them to extra-time before the Rebels went on to be crowned All-Ireland champions.
O'Sullivan stepped down and though he had won a Division 4 league title -- the county's first piece of national silverware in either this century or the last -- it was felt that this generation's shot at a Munster title and a taste of the big time had slipped by.
The luckless streak seemed to carry on into 2011 under Maurice Horan, who succeeded O'Sullivan. Relegation back to the basement division was followed by a season-ending injury to star player John Galvin.
But things seemed to turn gradually, and a home win over Offaly set the tone for the qualifiers. Waterford and then controversially Wexford have been put to the sword since to rack up three championship wins in the same season for the first time since 1896.
"The draw had been kind enough to them this year and at the weekend they might have got a rub of the green too. But they were due it," said O'Sullivan.
Now, though, they have had the misfortune to draw All-Ireland title favourites Kerry in the quarter-finals -- the Kingdom cantered to an 11-point win when the sides met in the Munster championship last month.
However, dual players Lucey and Mark O'Riordan are back in the fold. Their return is timely, with Tom Lee likely to be suspended for the Kerry clash following his red card against Wexford and Pa Ranahan a doubt.
"It's a big step up for them this weekend. Kerry are a class act, they have great forwards. But with a couple of minutes to go in the Munster final last year, the teams were level. So who is to say what will happen," said O'Sullivan.
"It's harder for Limerick to get to where they are now than for the likes of Cork or Kerry. Football might be the fourth sport in Limerick and these lads still carry on.
"Sometimes they don't get the respect they deserve and they are reduced to just sound-bites and stereotypes.
"I know the work those lads have done to make themselves better. The cards are stacked against them and they carry on despite it."