John Allen, pictured during the Division 1B Final this year. INPHO/Donall Farmer

John Allen on competing with top sides and ignoring clueless commentators

His side play Tipperary next Sunday.

AHEAD OF LIMERICK’S game with Tipperary next Sunday, we spoke with the former side’s manager John Allen.

Below are his thoughts on a number of subjects, raging from his belief that the current league structure is inept to his side’s chances of competing with the top teams in the province.

On why the league structure needs to be altered

I think the league should be in two sections and played by those teams, maybe mix them around every few years. Playing in division 1B is a disadvantage, there’s no doubt about that, every game in 1A was very competitive this year, apart from the opening game between Cork and Tipperary. Tipp are coming into this game having had seven very competitive games, the five league games, the semi-final and final – that’s a huge advantage in terms of what you learn in each game, the quality of the opposition in each game. Playing division 1B is a big disadvantage, no point saying otherwise.

Definitely there could be a bigger league, maybe all the teams who are playing in the Liam McCarthy in the same division, give them all a fair shot.

On their disappointing display against Kilkenny last year

Kilkenny did to us what they do to a lot of teams, got a lot of scores in a short space of time. A mistake shortly after half-time, a mishit by one of our players, a lot of space behind him and no-one covered that space, that probably turned that game. By the time we played them though we had built up a bit of momentum. We had played Tipperary, we had won a few qualifier games, were playing very well. Most of our injured players were back to near full fitness. As the year went on, we had momentum. I don’t think anyone expected us to beat Kilkenny, but we gave them a good game.

On whether the change in the Limerick club championships will help next year

They’re talking about it but I’m not 100% sure what’s happening. Players want to play matches. We’re in that gap now between league and championship and you want high-quality games, as many as you can get. You have to take the chance that fellas come through but if they get injured, they get injured. I think it’s an advantage, you have a lot of players on county panels who aren’t getting games with the county; they go back to their clubs then only in time to play a championship game, then back into inter-county training, so they’re not getting enough games – I think it’s a good idea. I appreciate what it’s like for the club manager trying to keep the thing going – maybe a match ends in a draw, they can’t plan, players can’t book holidays. I think it should be won properly, plan games and just get on with it, don’t bother with replays but play til you get a result.

On the build-up to their encounter with Tipperary

Preparation is going very well, training is going very well. I’ve said it many times, there’s a huge honesty and dedication and work ethic. Everything I was hearing about Limerick that was negative, I haven’t seen any of it, just honesty and hard work. From the first day I took over I’ve been impressed by the quality of the guys we have, how much they want to win.
The only fly in the ointment is the U-21 championship is on ten days beforehand between the same counties but we’ve worked very well with TJ Ryan, we’ve allowed the lads play a good number of games with the U-21s. It was changed from the original but that wasn’t a runner at all; at least now it’s back to the Friday week, we’ll just get on with it.

On competing with the top teams

Yeah, though I’ve made a decision not to read any more about that game. I was listening to the RTE previews on Sunday and Limerick didn’t get a mention – rightly so, Tipperary are the form team in Munster, second in the country behind Kilkenny. I have no doubt they’ll be hot favourites for this one, that’s how it is. We have to keep positive. It’s probably the same group of players who’ll be lining out but you’d have to agree that Tipperary are stronger this year, better organised, did better in the league. But we have as good a chance as we had last year.

I suppose [the lack of an RTE mention] does rankle. When you’re going to training every night and seeing what fellas are putting in, seeing the knocks they’re taking in games, seeing the weight fellas have lost, the muscle they’ve put on – I’ve no doubt that Kilkenny, Tipperary, Cork, Waterford and everyone else are doing it also but when you’re in there seeing the effort being put in. I mean I’ve heard people on radio commenting on teams from division 1B and you know they haven’t seen any of the games – it’s so far from the truth, you’d be turning it off and saying, that’s just rubbish. And they DON’T know, because they haven’t seen the games, they weren’t covered. I can see why Limerick, as the only Munster team in division 1B this year, wouldn’t be rated, but maybe that’s a good thing for us.

On their starting team

[Donal O’Grady] played in county championship last weekend, first game, so all things being equal he will be available for selection. Other than that, no serious worries.

We haven’t really decided [on Declan Hannon]. I was asked after the Dublin game why he was playing full-forward and I think that was a criticism, but it’s like the Joe Canning conundrum – is he better at full-forward, playing the ball into him, or on the wing? Centre-back is definitely out, he could be at 10/11/12/14, but obviously we have to nail down where fellas are going to play. He played there for his club in the championship at the weekend, 10/11/14 for a while. I don’t know, but thanks be to God, if everyone is available we have ten or 11 for the six forward slots and that’s a good position to be in.

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