Limerick’s captain in the cauldron

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Launch of 2013 Munster Senior Hurling and Football ChampionshipsWHEN Limerick run out onto the field next Sunday, they will be led by a man who believes that moral victories are no longer an option for Limerick. Donal O’Grady will once more be the captain of Limerick in the cauldron of the Gaelic Grounds. The cool headed Granagh/Ballingarry midfielder says it is now time to deliver some silverware.
“The young lads that have not been long on the team looked in and said, we have won nothing. We can play well, but we need to win. Nothing but a win is good enough anymore for us. Moral victories for Limerick hurling are a thing of the past. It is all about the medal at the end of the day”
O’Grady, who recovered from a dislocated shoulder earlier in the season, returned to midfield after a season at centre back. ‘Dodge’s point in the semi final near the conclusion of the game was an iconic moment and one which heralded wild celebrations from the crowd and the captain himself.
“What a relief that was. My young fella was slagging me at home. He said that the game wasn’t over and I should not have been roaring at the crowd. It was just pure relief to have won. It was just a real relief to do something like that for the supporters. You saw how much it meant to them at the end of the game. I see the footballers and ourselves training like we do, it sometimes doesn’t come off for you. When you get that chance to win, it is sheer relief that you attained it. We were bitterly disappointed that we did not get out of Division 1B. Looking at it now, that was poor. We were disgusted and we were in a bad place at the time. We just believed in ourselves and what we were doing and the enjoyment of getting that point was there for all to see.”
The win over Tipperary lead to mass celebrations and hysteria amongst supporters. The players, once over the celebrations, returned to their clubs for a round of fixtures. O’Grady was happy with how they returned, but immediately looked for all to refocus.
“There was bounce in the step alright. Everyone was on a high. I was a bit worried about the lads the second week after the Tipperary game. I felt people were getting carried away a bit. We needed to refocus. We have done that now. John Allen had a chat with us. He has been there with Cork several times and his experience of dealing with the hype surrounding a munster final has been vital. We had a good bonding weekend away in cork recently and we know that if we hurl well, the occasion will look after itself”
With 2007 and the run to the All Ireland final still fresh in his mind, O’Grady knows that momentum can be a huge factor for Limerick hurling.
“Traditionally, Limerick do go well when they start well. Now, the thing about this for me is I think, you cannot dare to look beyond Sunday and the Munster final. A run in the championship is fine, but you need silverware. I would put everything aside this year just to collect a title on Sunday. It is vital for the future and development of Limerick hurling, that we win a Munster Championship. I know you have that quarter final semi final combinations to be looked at, but we need to win on Sunday”
So, to this weekend and the ‘Blood and Bandage’ of Cork. The Rebels, with a young team, will not fear Limerick.
“I was very impressed with Cork in the Gaelic Grounds. I thought there were very cool. Even after a dodgy enough start. I think they didn’t panic. They just hurled away and got into their rhythm. Twenty three points in the championship is some scoring when you consider that there was a gale blowing in the first half against them.”
Comparions have been drawn between Cork and Limerick ahead o this weekend’s game. A blend of youth and experience all looking to win the jewel in the crown of Munster hurling.
“You could say we are similar in ways. We have a good blend of youth and experience too. We have a lot of lads who played against and beat Cork in the Munster under 21 final two years ago. Mentally, I don’t think we would have any issue. We will respect Cork and we know what to expect from them. In our own minds, we are looking at ourselves and no further. If we can get our own heads right, which I think they are, get a good performance, who knows. We will need an effort, 5-10% more than we put in against Tipperary”
The media have made Limerick slight favourites for this weekend’s game, with some bookies going to evens. O’Grady feels that the edge might come from the home crowd.
“The last time I looked, we played on grass and not in the bookies. That means little to me. It is great to be at home in a Munster final. That does bring it’s own pressure too though. After the Tipp game, the expectation has risen. We need to stay grounded and focused. We need to stay away from the occasion as much as is possible. Even though that is hard to do in Limerick.
With fans clamouring for tickets and inside information, O’Grady is more than happy to be the centre of attention on Munster final week.
“Ideally, you would love to be left alone, but that is not going to happen. Limerick are not in a Munster final every year, so yes, people are getting excited. That expectation is rising. There is a feel good factor and everyone wants to wish you well. People want to know how things are going. It is a great topic to be talking about, but to be honest, you can get into a zone after a few days and all the answers seem to be the same. People are genuine enough and they want the team to win, so hopefully that will rub off on the team and that extra bit of want you need will be got from that. It will be great to play at home in front of that support, but we need to play the game and not the occasion. Hopefully come half five next Sunday, we can enjoy the occasion then. We need to remain grounded before that and realise that this is still match. The supporters can enjoy the build up and the post match”
So, in a modern 20 man game, where is this going to be won. Once more, O’Grady believes the strength in reserve will prove vital for Limerick.
“We would not have beaten Tipperary without our bench. That is no disrespect to anyone that came off. They did their part too. It is a 20 man game now. Even Kilkenny have done that for years. We know there are plenty of places up for grabs. John Allen has said that it is unlikely that the same team will start this time around. That gives fellas an incentive to train on and put their hand up. Which is always good. The intensity and the work rates at training have been good. The inter panel matches have been great too. It is a good thing. We are as ready as we ever will be”
We are ready too Donal.