Buckley determined to knock 'Big Two' from their pedestal
FORGET about Division 1 -- what about the intense competition in Division 4 of the Allianz National Football League?
Down there in the so-called 'basement' of the GAA's football structure are Clare, the only team with a 100pc record in the country; Limerick, who came within an ace of downing eventual All-Ireland finalists Cork last season; a resurgent Waterford; and a Longford side that came close to beating Kerry last summer in the qualifiers.
And let's not forget that Mick O'Dwyer, the most successful manager in the game's history, is also plying his trade in Division 4 with Wicklow.
No county can relish an identification with the lowest league of football, but it would be foolish and reckless snobbery to dismiss this division as the home of no-hopers.
Ambition there is a aplenty. For a start, the Munster Championship draw which has Clare, Waterford and Limerick on one side, and Kerry, Cork, and Tipperary on the other, opens a pathway to the final for one lucky minnow.
Limerick's players also know that a few extra scores taken at the right time would have earned them their first Munster title since 1896 when losing by 2-6 to 0-11 in last year's Championship decider against Cork.
Supporters of the 'Big Two' cannot envisage either of their teams falling to Limerick, Clare, Tipperary or even Waterford, but one day soon, it must happen.
Clare made a Munster Championship breakthrough in 1992, so in this decade, why can't at least one provincial crown be won by a county other than Cork and Kerry? That's the dream that inspires Limerick captain Seanie Buckley.
"I just think it needs someone outside of Cork or Kerry to make the breakthrough in Munster, and after that, who knows what could happen?
"The gap is closing. This year you'll have ourselves, Waterford or Clare in a Munster final, and it will need whoever comes through that to do the business on the day. Until that happens it will always be Cork and Kerry," said Buckley.
The 24-year-old Ennistymon-based Garda has featured so regularly since making his inter-county debut in 2005 that he was described by one newspaper as "a veteran".
Buckley can smile at that, but there's plenty of football mileage left in the legs -- some of which he hopes to put to good use in today's key NFL clash with Clare at Cusack Park. With two games left to play, Clare are on top with 12 points from six matches, Waterford are second with 10, with Limerick third with nine. The Treaty men need to win today and at home to Leitrim next week to have a chance of promotion and the divisional final.
"We know it's a huge task for us when a team's tail is up like that," said Buckley They won't easily be knocked off the top, so it's going to be a huge task and a difficult day."
Last weekend Limerick hammered hapless Kilkenny by 8-13 to 2-2, with Buckley scoring 3-1, but Clare are a totally different proposition.
"For ourselves, we know the task ahead is two must-win games, but it all starts with Clare. We're not looking further than that," he said.
Manager Mickey Ned O'Sullivan has to deal with a lengthy injury list, but said: "We've had an opportunity of providing everyone in the panel with a chance to play, so that's a good thing.
"Clare are going exceptionally well. We've had a lot of injuries and haven't got up to full steam yet, but we're not going there to lose."