Thursday 26 April 2018

Foley: There's no way Ryan is going to pull Hannon back

Declan Hannon, Limerick
Declan Hannon, Limerick
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

SPECULATION that Limerick boss TJ Ryan will move Declan Hannon back to bolster his half-back line for Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final is way off the mark, according to former county star Mark Foley.

"That definitely won't happen," insisted Hannon's fellow clubman.

"Anyone who has watched Declan playing regularly, either for the club or in colleges, knows that his place is in the forwards, not in the backs," Foley said.

An ankle problem kept Hannon out of the whole Allianz League this year and he has not yet found his usually stellar form.

Speculation is rife that his form, and the need to buttress the Treaty county's half-back line, will see the big 21-year-old switched to a new defensive role for Limerick's big knock-out clash with this summer's surprise package in Thurles.

But Foley, who lined out at wing-back in a famous All-Ireland quarter-final against Wexford in 2001, says no way.

He does accept that there is huge pressure on the county half-back line to produce the goods now.

"They've done it at times this year, but they've got to perform to their maximum ability now," Foley said.

"You just can't win big matches unless your half-back line is operating at its best because, in any game, they'll probably be dealing with 40 set-pieces from puck-outs and frees alone.

"There was a lot of euphoria around when we beat Tipperary, but I thought some cracks were exposed in that game that weren't really noticed and we saw them again against Cork," he added.

"If your half-backs are under pressure that also affects the delivery to your forwards," he stressed.

"It's the one area there'd be concern about, especially with the lack of depth in the panel. We don't have the sort of replacements that you'd like, or rather, we have some, but they're very inexperienced at this level.

"That is where playing in Division 1B is affecting us because players haven't had a chance to play regularly against all the top teams during the league, which would prepare you for this time of year."

Yet Foley also believes that people forget how many chances Limerick missed against Cork in the Munster final.

"Cork had two goal chances and took both. We had about five and didn't take any of them.

"That's why there was so much disappointment here.

"There was a lot of talk about how well Shane O'Neill played for Cork, but I thought Shane Dowling was very good against him.

"He did miss a great goal chance in the second half that he put over the bar and they're the chances we can't afford to waste if we're to beat Wexford."

Foley was part of the team that lost that dramatic quarter-final 13 years ago on a 4-10 to 2-15 scoreline.

It was long before Anthony Nash made it fashionable for goalkeepers to dash upfield to slot frees yet Wexford's legendary 'keeper Damien Fitzhenry set the template that day by scoring two goals from a penalty and a free; the latter to steal victory in the dying minutes.

The fact that Wexford come into the clash off a six-game run compared to Limerick's two is another factor and Foley doesn't buy into the theory that Liam Dunne's team will run out of legs.

"Wexford are a young team and, on top of that, an awful lot of modern players are students.

"Most of them will get in plenty of rest and recovery sessions, so I don't think Wexford's schedule will affect them," he said.

"They're very good in the air, both up front and at the back, but that could work against them. They've got so many big players, especially in defence, you'd expect Limerick to try to run at them."

Irish Independent

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