“IT’S a blur. You think you are not fit. You think you are going to get a heart attack. Your legs feel heavy. The nerves go once the ball is in, but it is complete madness.”
Limerick captain Donal O’Grady describes the first five minutes of a Munster championship clash. The Granagh/ Ballingarry man will lead his charges out this Sunday 9 as they face Tipperary in the Munster championship semi final. (Throw in at 4pm)
O’Grady knows that nothing short of a 70 plus minute effort will see Limerick win, what would be only their fourth championship victory in 13 years.
“We are trying to play at 90 miles an hour and so are Tipperary. Someone is going to have to go to 90 or 100 to get the win. We were conscious that the league was not as fast as the championship is going to be, so we tried to up the levels in the weeks since”
O’Grady, who is named at midfield for this weekend’s clash, is relishing the prospect of another Tipperary battle after last season’s final quarter collapse.
“A lot of things have to go our way. We need to make sure we do not concede a goal. Keep it tight. Get stuck into them and keep the crowd behind us. Matches are funny. If we get on top, on Sunday, we need to make sure we register that on the scoreboard. Last year, when Tipp went on the run, it felt like a tsunami. It was incredible. We have trained hard to rectify that and we have that in the back of our minds too.”
Gavin O’Mahony, who will play at wing back, has used last year’s loss as motivation for 2013.
“Last year there were regrets. We have prepared down to the last detail this season. We are fitter, stronger and a year older. We are ahead of where we were last year. I know that. The fitness and the skill levels will not be found wanting this year. The players took that on themselves. We do not want any unknowns this season. No regrets.
We are ahead of where we were last year. We should have won that game against Tipperary. Once we realised how close we were, it was too late. This team needs some confidence, we know we are good, but we need to trust in ourselves and in our training.
One win too and the interest will multiply. If we put everything into this game and get over the line, God knows where it could take us.”
Another man with an eye for revenge is O’Mahony’s Kilmallock team mate Paudie O’Brien.
“Looking back at the game from last year, we handed the win to them. At the end of the day, we feel that we are not too far away from the big boys. We have all prepared very well for this one. We feel that small things that we have changed from last season might just be the difference. I think we have gone back to traditional Limerick hurling. We are winning ball and getting the ball into the forwards a lot quicker.”
Limerick selector John Kiely is fully aware that all Limerick fans and hurling fans in general are judging this panel on their championship performances.
“Championship is what it is all about. Full stop. When anyone looks at Limerick, they just look at the championship. It is fair to say that last May was a big hurt for us. The team has shifted a lot of woes over the last couple of years. We have come to the point now, where the team building is over. Everyone has a couple of years of hurling, conditioning and work done. Limerick have not won, in normal time, since 2001 in the Munster championship. That is a horrendous record and it needs to be put to bed.
Tipperary have the medals in their back pocket. They are a good side. It’s up to these Limerick lads to beat sides like that for us to earn respect. GAA matches don’t always follow form. We are looking for that upset.”
Limerick manager John Allen is in no doubt that a reward for Limerick’s hard work is just around the corner.
“If hard work, dedication and honesty counts for anything then this Limerick team deserve something this year. I cannot say enough about them. Hopefully a reward is around the corner for them. Closing out games is definitely an issue. Personnel wise we will be stronger this year. Last year’s Tipperary game was a case in point. The talent they brought off the bench make a significant difference. Between injuries and a lack of experience, we lost the game. I hope that will not be the issue this season. We are a year older and we are close to full health.
“With everyone okay, we need 15 players on the field at the end of the game, to have the ability to close out the game. I suppose we need that edge now. We know the players better this year, they know us better too. With a 20 man game, we are in a better position this year to close out games.”
Limerick’s 2012 season was a year of promise. The Shannonsider’s two losses came at the hands of Kilkenny and Tipperary. The seven point lead that Limerick squandered last year is something of a motivating factor for John Allen’s men.
The final words ahead of this weekend’s game go to Paudie O’Brien.
“It’s fast. It is crazy. Anyone that can tell you about the game as it passes is lying. It is a blink of an eye to half time. Sunday is the reason we play the game. There is nothing like it. It is something I cannot wait for.”
Thoughts echoed throughout the county.
Limerick team to face Tippeary:
Nicky Quaid, Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon, Paudie O Brien, Wayne McNamara, Gavin O Mahony, Paul Browne, Dónal O’Grady (Capt), David Breen, James Ryan, Seamus Hickey, Graham Mulcahy, Declan Hannon, Seanie Tobin.