WE need to finish games stronger -- that's the message John Allen has been imparting to the Limerick players as they prepare to relaunch their championship campaign against Laois in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening.
Limerick were reeled in over the final quarter by Clare in the Division 2 league final and by Tipperary in the first round of the Munster championship, leading to defeats in games where they had put themselves in a position to win.
However, Limerick's season is still very much alive and Allen will be looking for more balanced performances as they attempt to plot their way back into contention.
He insists that Limerick's second-half fade-outs had nothing to do with conditioning or fitness levels but rather with the specific challenges they encountered against Clare and Tipperary.
"We were without three of four top players against Clare and it took its toll in the end. The strength-in-depth of the Tipperary panel was a big factor in the championship," said Allen. "We brought on Declan Hannon but he had very little done so it was asking a lot of him in the circumstances. A fully fit Declan would have made a big difference. Tipperary were able to call on very experienced subs."
Despite missing out on promotion to Division 1A and losing a seven-point lead in the last quarter against Tipperary, Allen remains extremely upbeat about Limerick's rate of progress.
"We did an awful lot right in the league and against Tipperary. Now, we have to build on that. I have no doubt that the lads will have learned from the Tipperary game.
"Experience was a big factor that day but the more often players are exposed to games at that level, the more they learn," he said.
The qualifier draw has been kind to Limerick, presenting them with home advantage against struggling Laois on Saturday and, if they win, another home game against Antrim a week later.
"Playing at home is only an advantage if you make it count. The draw gives us a good chance of progressing but we have to make it happen," he added.
If, as expected, Limerick beat Laois and Antrim, they will play one of the survivors from the play-offs between beaten Leinster and Munster semi-finalists.
Allen will, of course, be keeping a close eye on this weekend's Leinster and Munster semi-finals and expects Kilkenny and Tipperary to pass their stern examinations.
"With Kilkenny short a few players, it gives Dublin a great chance. I'd expect it be to very close but Kilkenny are good at getting through in tight calls.
"In Munster, the balance may have tipped in Tipperary's direction since the league. The game with Limerick will have brought them on. Cork are going in the right direction but Tipp may have a little more momentum at this stage."