Rival managers accentuate positives for Limerick as powerful Rebels loom
CAN Mickey Ned O'Sullivan's Limerick team cause a championship shock of seismic proportions and eliminate Cork in the All-Ireland qualifier at the Gaelic Grounds this evening?
Can they possibly succeed where Cavan and Wexford have failed in successive weeks to the power and might of a Cork team hungry for success after last year's All-Ireland final failure?
The task is huge, especially as Cork have played Limerick in each of the last four years in the championship and won every time.
Logic and past results certainly don't favour Limerick, but Clare manager Micheal McDermott and Waterford boss John Owens, fellow members of the 'Munster Minnows' club, would love to see the Treaty men do it.
They're putting county rivalry aside and hoping that their 2010 Division 4 colleagues can strike a blow for the little guys in the province.
I call them 'minnows' with all due respect to Limerick, Waterford, Clare and Tipperary, but the harsh reality is that the Big Two have lorded it over the rest for more than a century.
Only rarely have the outsiders poached a title in the provincial football championship.
Tipperary, with nine Munster wins between 1888 and 1935, are some distance ahead of Clare (two: 1917, 1992); Waterford (one: 1898), and Limerick (one: 1896).
And, of course, with the 2010 title wrapped up by Kerry, Limerick could only take credit for giving the Kingdom a fright rather than carving out a major piece of history for themselves.
Now Mickey Ned and his men seek atonement for that defeat and look to derail mighty Cork.
McDermott and Owens know plenty about Limerick's qualities.
They matched their wits against Mickey Ned in Division 4 of the National League and then, in the case of Owens, faced Limerick in the Division 4 final at Croke Park.
Ultimately, Limerick came out on top, winning promotion after topping the division, and the silverware from the final.
John Owens at least had the consolation of seeing Waterford gain promotion to Division 3, but that's now history.
So how do the rival managers with intimate knowledge of Limerick assess their chances?
1. "It's a big plus for Limerick to have Cork at home.
2. "Cork haven't had it put up to them in the last two matches against Cavan and Wexford. And if Limerick are going to make the breakthrough, it's probably going to be in the qualifiers.
3. "The big thing in Limerick's favour is that they have had a break and plenty of time to prepare.
4. "Limerick, historically, have made it very difficult for them. They won't fear Cork.
5. "The way they lost to Kerry. Nobody likes losing, but when you think Limerick were seven points down and fought back to almost win, you have to feel that the fightback gave them great hope.
6. "Cavan stood off Cork and allowed them space to dictate the game. Limerick won't do that. Wexford didn't play to their potential against Cork, but Limerick bring serious intensity to their play."
1. "The result against Kerry would have strengthened their belief. I know they have been close before. It just shows you there's no lack of belief there and that performance would definitely have reinforced this belief.
2. "This match gives everybody concerned with the Limerick team another opportunity to play against top opposition. No disrespect to Division 4, but the pressure was on Limerick against Kerry and they did Division 4 proud.
3. "Limerick are physically not a small team. They have good strength and are a very good football team.
4. "There is no fear factor among any of the Limerick players playing Kerry or Cork at any time.
5. "Limerick have good substitutes who can come on and score points for them, just as Conor Fitzgerald did against us."
1. "Forewarned is forearmed. The fact that Limerick pushed Cork so hard last year and Kerry in the Munster final means that Cork know exactly what to expect.
2. "Cork's ambition. They really want to win the All-Ireland this year and if they win this one, it could be a big stepping stone for them.
3. "Cork are physically very big, strong and mobile and have so many good footballers in their side."
McDermott sums up: "I would love to be in the position of managing a team that is playing Cork to get into an All-Ireland quarter-final place.
"Cork will be everybody's favourite, but if Limerick can hit top form, they certainly have a chance."
1. "Just look at the strength of Cork. They are probably a wee bit more physically strong than Kerry were against Limerick.
2. "I know Paul Galvin didn't play in the Munster final but Cork look to be a bit stronger than they were last year.
3. "Cork also know more about themselves this year after their experiences of last year."
Owens sums up: "It should be a tight match. Limerick will need to play to their full potential to win, but if Limerick look back on what they have achieved so far, there's definite hope there for them."