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Trapped - The Rotten Luck That Has Kept The Limerick Hurlers In Division 1B Every Year

Trapped - The Rotten Luck That Has Kept The Limerick Hurlers In Division 1B Every Year
By Conor Neville
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With less than 48 hours to go before the commencement of the National Hurling League, let us look at the plight of the Limerick hurlers.

Limerick hurling has been synonymous with rotten luck ever since Johnny Dooley decided to flagrantly ignore Eamonn Cregan's sideline advice in the 1994 All-Ireland final.

But their experience in the league in this decade writes a new chapter in that unfortunate story. Throughout all these years, the Limerick hurlers have remained trapped in the dowdy prison that is Division 1B.

2010 was the last year that Limerick sampled the delights of hurling's top league competition. It was a more inclusive entity back then, consisting of eight teams altogether.

A brief reminder of Limerick's last spell in hurling's top division. It was the blackest year possibly in the whole history of Limerick hurling, quite a statement for a county that once surrendered a five-point lead with five minutes remaining in an All-Ireland hurling final.

In spite of themselves, Limerick had reached the All-Ireland semi-final in 2009. Anthony Daly's naive Dublin side were at an early phase in their evolutionary curve and imploded in the 2nd half of the curtain raiser quarter-final in Thurles. Thus Limerick, despite their manifest lethargy, found themselves in an All-Ireland semi-final. Tipperary dished out such a beating that they probably wished they hadn't survived that long. The players decided they weren't going anywhere under Justin McCarthy and moved to get rid of him.


Justin had already been unseated by one player revolt - in Waterford - and wasn't going to go quietly this time. The county board, in a moronic show of official stubborness, decided to back the manager to the hilt.

And so, Limerick were represented a team of reserves and youngsters throughout the 2010 season. They lost every match in Division 1 of the National League, conceding a monstrous 17-146 in the process, an average of 4-21 per game. Bizarrely, their narrowest defeat was a seven point loss against Kilkenny. Dublin scored 6-30 against them in the final game.

In 2011, with troubleshooter Donal O'Grady installed as manager, Limerick did all they could to return to the top flight at the first attempt. They won 7 from 7, topping the table ahead of Clare.


Unfortunately, that was the very year that the GAA decided to re-model the National Hurling League. For 2012, the top league would contain six teams. Limerick and Clare would remain in the second tier competition, renamed Division 1B (a more cumbersome title for Division 2). They would be joined by the two relegated sides from Division 1, Offaly and Wexford.


Limerick were furious. Table toppers with an 100% record, they were being told they had to remain outside the top flight. Newspaper headlines blared that they were considering boycotting the National League for 2012.

County chief executive Mike O'Riordan voiced the frustration in the county.


We participated in the 2011 Division 2 in good faith. It clearly states in the rules that if we won Division 2 we would be promoted. That's not the case now.

It that change was brought in for 2013, with a year's notice, then we wouldn't have had an issue. At least everyone would know what was at stake. Limerick people see this as an awful kick in the teeth.

Since then, Clare have progressed under Davy Fitzgerald, occasionally flitting between 1A and 1B. Offaly and Wexford have never threatened to return to the top flight.


From 2012 to 2016, Limerick have finished 2nd in 1B in every season... bar one.

In 2013, Limerick did top Division 1B, taking 9 points out of a possible 10. Unfortunately, at this time, the GAA were still insisting upon the need for a Division 1B final, featuring the top two sides in the standings.

A wholly unnecessary event, the GAA soon after dispensed with the Division 1B final. The public have adjudged it to be no great loss to the hurling calendar. Limerick's one-point loss to Dublin in 2013 was the last ever 1B final.


It's abolition came frustratingly late for Limerick. They haven't finished top of the Division 1B standings since. In 2014, they went unbeaten in 1B and boasted a superior points difference to Cork.

But following their opening day draw with JBM's team, they had another costly draw against Offaly in Tullamore on gameweek 4. It condemned them to another year trapped in 1B.


Since then, they have finished runners-up to both Waterford and Clare. 1A is so close they can taste it. And yet it always seems irritatingly far away.

With the 2017 NHL now upon us, the prospect of a spin in 1A is receding further. With Galway's unexpected demotion to 1B, Tipp and KK remain the only sides who haven't departed 1A. Galway are the biggest and baddest shark yet to descend to the shallow waters of 1B. The bookies have them at better than even money favourites to top the table.

Worse still, manager John Kiely is playing down expectations for promotion.

The concept of promotion out of the division is not on our radar at the moment. If we give ourselves an opportunity at some point down the road to gain promotion that would be great.

So, that's that then. In 2018, we can expect them to be taking their place among the Division 1B contenders.

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