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Limerick manager John Allen is pleased with his side's progress through the hurling qualifiers

Updated: Tuesday, 03 Jul 2012 09:43 | Comments

Limerick manager John Allen (r) felt inexperience cost his side victory against Tipperary
Limerick manager John Allen (r) felt inexperience cost his side victory against Tipperary

The Limerick hurlers were beaten by Tipperary in the Munster championship but they’ve been quick to bounce back to winning ways, inflicting heavy defeats on their two opponents in the qualifiers.

But how much did they really learn from beating Laois by 25 points and Antrim by 32, scoring a remarkable total of 8-26 in the latter match.

Manager John Allen spoke on Sport at Seven on Monday evening, and whilst happy with the progress of his side, he understands that much stiffer task lie ahead.

Allen said: “Any day you score eight goals you’d have to say you’re pleased with your forwards, and six the previous day.

"Did we learn anything? We used 23 players, which was good, because I know when push came to shove when we were playing Tipperary in the championship this year, we had a lot of inexperience on the line and we were slow to make changes, whereas Tipperary had a lot of experience on the line.

"So, at least now we’ve blooded a number of players over the past two weeks."

Alled added: “We pushed on in the last quarter of both games, which we hadn’t done in that Tipp game and particularly in the league final as well against Clare.

"I’d have to be positive about it, they were two very good performances . Our forwards scoring 14 goals is not to be underestimated. All in all, they were two very good performances.”

Allen believes his side could have beaten Tipperary in their Munster meeting but the greater experience of the Premier County was the deciding factor in that game – something which he feel was evident form a look to the respective benches.

“We had them there for the taking. No doubt I was [disappointed] because we had kind of gone the same route against Clare in the league final where in 10 minutes into the second half we were up seven or eight points and we didn’t hold onto it, and the same happened against Tipperary.

“Tipperary’s backs showed again against Cork that when the last quarter of an hour came Paudie Maher was exceptionally good, Conor O’Mahony was exceptionally good, as they were against us. We lost a whole lot of puck-outs in that period.

“As I said, we were slow to make changes but that was through the inexperience of the people we had on the line. Certainly, I would have been disappointed that we lost both of those games in the last quarter, having played so well for so long.

“But there’s a lot of young players in the team, a lot of young fellas on the panel that are learning every day they go out. The jigsaw is fitting into place now a bit better than it was.”

"We’re going the route that most commentators said we would go, where you would lose to Tipp, maybe put up a good performance, win your next two games and then be back in the main thrust of the thing again.

“I suppose, from our point of view, we had a number of players starting their first championship game against Tipperary this year.

"One of those, Conor Aliss, in injured and didn’t start the last two games. It gave somebody else a chance. As I said, we used a number of players – Thomas O’Brien came in the last day; his brother Seanie O’Brien came in as a sub; Shane O’Neill came in; Declan Hannon is getting back to full fitness.

"All of that augurs well and the fact, as well, that I think we have either seven or eight under-21s in our panel. I see there recently that Tipp had only one.

“So that augurs well for where Limerick are at in this stage of their development. It’s quite a young team with a number of very exceptional players. “

But closing the gap on Kilkenny is the ultimate goal for aspiring all-Ireland winners and Allen feels that matching the desire and intensity of the Cats is the only way forward.

To do that, players need to be involved in the white heat of battle with the top teams, and he feels the current structure of the league does not encourage such development.

“Intensity is the word we always use about Kilkenny. Kilkenny work at a ferocious intensity all their games. This whole period probably kicked off in 2006 when they beat us in the final, when I was with Cork, and that day they were like bees around honey. They just closed down everything.

“And they haven’t stopped since and I think that whatever chance you have, you have to match that intensity.

“The word conditioning is use a lot in football. It’s used in hurling now as well, where players now are conditioned, and in the gyms and getting stronger, and so on. You certainly have to match that.

“There are hurlers in all the counties that are very good [but] getting to play the game at the pace and intensity that Kilkenny play is where you want to get. That can only come from playing games against Kilkenny or Tipperary, or Cork or Galway, or Waterford or Dublin – the teams that are right up there.

"I think the structure of the league is very unfair to the teams who are playing in the Liam McCarthy but who are not playing in [Division] 1A [of the league].”

A debate for another day, perhaps.

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