By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Limerick manager John Lillis is maintaining an upbeat outlook as his largely inexperienced side faces Offaly in their final Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Group 3 tie on Saturday (4.30pm), with a relegation play-off series awaiting the loser.
A draw would be sufficient for the Treaty women as they have a superior score difference to their rivals.
The teams met in similar circumstances as the bottom pair in Division 1B of the Very Camogie League at the end of March and on that occasion, Limerick had a goal to spare at Rathkeale’s Mick Neville Park to send the Faithful into the third tier.
Offaly suffered a 20-point defeat to high-flying Waterford in Banagher but were much more competitive before losing by ten points to Antrim in Portglenone.
Limerick were very competitive when losing by just four points to the Saffrons in Dunloy before falling to a 14-point defeat to the Déise in Cappamore but there were many positives for Lillis despite that latter reverse.
“It was a disappointing result in one sense, but you can’t be but proud of the girls,” said Lillis in the Limerick Leader.
“We tore into Waterford as long as we could, we stayed going and ultimately they had a bigger panel to pull them through.
“You have young girls coming up against some of the best players in the country. Ultimately the difference was Waterford’s Beth Carton, she was on fire. I don’t think she hit a wide in the whole game, she was just unmarkable and look that’s the level we are getting to.”
Operating in such a furnace is the only way to bring players up to the requisite level as long as they are not discouraged and Lillis’ positivity is important in that respect.
Meanwhile, the squad received a significant boost during the week with the announcement that Fitzgerald’s Woodlands House Hotel in Adare had renewed their sponsorship of the senior and junior camogie teams, as well as the county’s ladies football panel.
This gives Lillis and his players access to the health and leisure club, hot meals after training and matches and funding for training gear, all vital components of a high-performance environment.
As for Saturday’s challenge, the manager is under no illusions what to expect but was happy to have had a week off to rest, recuperate and hopefully allow some of his walking wounded to return.
“The biggest thing now is freshness. We have a very tight panel at the minute through a lot of injuries so we want to have the girls as fresh as possible.”