Limerick ready to unleash battery of young guns
But Ryan adamant Treaty schools stars are still off-limits, writes Cliona Foley
A COMBINATION of prodigious underage talent and absent regulars means that Limerick hurling manager TJ Ryan looks set to give some of his teen tyros a chance to shine in the Allianz League.
Ryan has already added two of the county's two in-a-row Munster minor winners - Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey - to his panel over the winter.
Ronan Lynch is another rising star but, like Barry Nash and Colin Ryan, is still in secondary school, and Ryan has indicated that he will not be looking for any of them yet.
"I wouldn't rule anything out but, to be fair to any guy doing his Leaving Cert, that's enough pressure on its own so, until that's out of the way you wouldn't even contemplate it," he said.
However, Ryan looks set to give Lynch and Morrissey a chance to shine in Division 1B, particularly because he's so short-staffed ahead of Saturday night's league opener against Waterford in the Gaelic Grounds.
Kilmallock's progress to the All-Ireland club final robs him of four of the panel, including Graeme Mulcahy and Gavin O'Mahony, until after St Patrick's Day at the earliest.
The possible involvement of three Limerick colleges in the late stages of the Fitzgibbon Cup could also rob the county of another half-dozen players until the end of March.
Declan Hannon and David Reidy are playing with the Mary Immaculate College of Education, John Fitzgibbon and Dan Morrissey are lining out with the University of Limerick, while Aaron Murphy and Seanie O'Brien are hurling for Limerick IT.
Kevin Downes (knee) and Seanie Tobin (hip) both had surgeries in the off-season and are also not available yet.
"It looks like Kevin won't be back until around mid-March and Seanie, while not far off being back, will certainly miss our two opening games," Ryan (right) confirmed.
"In fairness to the minors over the last few years they've been pretty good and I'd like to think there's more to come from those guys.
"Certainly we'd try and mind them as best we can, but we need all those guys."
Patrickswell prodigy Lynch, who is a nephew of Ciaran Carey, captained Limerick's minors in last year's All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny.
Tom Morrissey, from Ahane, is another double Munster minor winner who has now joined his brother Dan on the panel; the two youngsters scored 0-6 between them when Limerick beat Cork in the Waterford Crystal final recently.
A combination of factors now looks set to see them fast-tracked this spring when Limerick fans will be hoping their side win promotion after narrowly missing it for the past four years.
Yet Ryan doesn't believe that playing in Division IB is any major impediment.
"I certainly wouldn't see it (promotion) as imperative. It's something that we would like to do but I wouldn't see it as the be-all and end-all," he said, pointing out that the last two Munster championships have been won by Division 1B teams - themselves and Cork
"We've struggled to get out of Division 1B over the last number of years so we can't really be complaining about it. It is competitive and I don't see this year being any different."
After winning Munster in 2013, contesting a second final last year and giving Kilkenny such a fright, Ryan said the Shannonsiders will be looking to make more progress this year, and scoring more goals is a priority.
"Last year we wanted to make sure we performed every day we went out. We did that but didn't score a goal against Kilkenny and they got two at the right time," he recalled. "There isn't a lot between a lot of the teams. The ability to get results on a given day has been Kilkenny's forte and the ability to get goals. Goals win matches."