LIMERICK footballers are travelling to Cork this Saturday with a pep in their step.
Their shock 3-11 to 1-10 Munster SFC quarter-final win against Tipperary in Thurles was Limerick’s first provincial championship win since 2012. A team that finished near the foot of Division 4, and that wasn’t expected to make any impact in Munster, is now looking for an even bigger scalp this Saturday evening. We caught up with Limerick manager Billy Lee to get his thoughts on the weekend’s Munster SFC semi-final.
KIERAN McCARTHY (KMC): Is it a win-win scenario for Limerick on Saturday – Cork are expected to win so Limerick have it all to gain and little to lose?
BILLY LEE (BL): Yes and no is the answer. Yes, in some degree because we weren’t expected to beat Tipperary. The world outside our camp might say we have nothing to lose but from our perspective we have things that we want to focus on and that we want to bring to the table for ourselves, as part of our development. How we perform and how we take on the challenge of playing Cork is important to us.
KMC: How much of a confidence boost was it for this Limerick group to go to Thurles and beat Tipperary so convincingly?
BL: It was big. We felt we were in reasonable shape going into the match but not many would have said that we would go there and win. We felt we had done the right things and felt that we were ready for the challenge. We had no experience of winning a championship game with this group of players so it was new ground for them. When you don’t know what is required to win a championship match it’s hard to say that you’re going to win it.
KMC: All things considered, and with Cork football at a low and now relegated to Division 3 as well, is this a good time to play Cork?
BL: I will put it to you this way – in my lifetime we have only beaten Cork ,,, in 1965 and 2003. If you want to put things into perspective, that is the size of the challenge we face.
I do know they are going a lot better in recent weeks than their league form might have shown. That indicates that Ronan (McCarthy) is embedding what he wants the team to do and the lads are getting confidence.
Cork people might look at the team after being relegated and say they are not where they want them to be – but there is a building process going on. The form they’ve shown in challenge games is impressive. People might not be aware of it. To score 3-24 in a challenge game beating Dublin tells its own story.
KMC: News of that challenge game reached Limerick so?
BL: If they can kick 3-24, that will win most games, and if you beat Dublin in any game you have ability. That Cork team has a lot of ability that maybe they haven’t shown in recent times because the confidence isn’t there. The raw ability is certainly there and we need to make sure we minimise their impact as much as we can.
I am under no illusions about where Cork are and where they are going. They are on a journey to get there and I think they will get there because they have too much talent not to succeed. We need to make sure we are prepared to minimise their impact.
KMC: For Limerick how important is it to back up the Tipp performance with another solid performance against Cork?
BL: That’s important alright. The performance is really important to us and we are focussed on that. Traditionally, Cork, along with Kerry, are the powerhouses in Munster. Maybe Cork are not where they used to be at this moment in time. This is a new venture for us. It’s fair to say that the four perceived weaker counties in Munster all feel they can beat each other but this is a different challenge against one of the so-called powerhouses. We’re making sure we are ready and we have an expectation on ourselves and what we want to achieve.