'It'll take us time to reach top' - Kirby
Despite three of the four Allianz HL semi-finalists hailing from Division 1B, Limerick legend Gary Kirby insists there's no comparison with competitive games in the league's top tier and feels the Treaty must prioritise securing Division 1A status next season.
After watching their promotion credentials slip away after just two rounds, Kirby bemoans the fact that Limerick were unable to blood a host of their 2015 U-21 All-Ireland winners against the game's elite.
They still reached the last four, by virtue of a "great performance" away to Cork, but the four-time All-Star feels the Treaty's All-Ireland ambitions, and the development of a host of promising young players, is being dented in Division 1B.
"Division 1B was fairly handy, they had two hard matches and, with respect, they weren't really tested in the others. They did get an opportunity to try out an awful lot of players but you're up against a different standard," he said. "Personally, I'd much prefer if they got out of 1B and up to 1A, I know there's three 1B teams in the last four but all the 1A teams have had really hard matches up until now while we haven't. All the players (that) the top counties have thrown in have been tried and trusted in hard physical games.
"There's no comparison between 1A and 1B, there's no point in saying there is. The Wexford game was first and the Galway game was the last, no disrespect to the other teams, but they weren't really tested in those games. And now all of a sudden they're coming into serious hurling."
Acquaintances will be renewed with the Tribesmen in Sunday's semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds (2.0) and Kirby, who guided his native Patrickswell to Limerick SHC honours last year, expects a lot more "fire and fight" than their three-point group-game defeat.
Limerick failed to live up to monstrous expectations at senior level after claiming an U-21 three-in-a-row from 2000-2002 and while getting to a final would be a "great boost" for Kiely's squad, Kirby doesn't feel there's too much pressure being heaped on this crop.
"I don't see that going around to tell you the truth, people understand that it's a new set-up and the Limerick people are willing to give him a chance. There's not that much pressure being put on them, they might bring the pressure on themselves but the public aren't putting pressure on them," he said.
"I know everything is down to results these days but you have to give the man a chance and we'll just wait to see what happens. The boys have tried loads of players and you couldn't be knocking them for that either."
The 50-year-old does hold some concern about the spine of the side still being up in the air, however, with particular worries in the middle third where he feels clubmate Aaron Gillane should be afforded time to shine.
"Richie (McCarthy) and Declan (Hannon) look like manning the defence but who are they going to play midfield and centre-forward? They are the three places I'd be worried about, they seem to be chopping and changing a good bit. I also find it strange that the best hurler in the senior championship last year, Aaron Gillane, has got no run-out."