CROKE PARK tunnel, 2007. Limerick players depart the dressing room and make their way to the bus. The team had just been defeated by 7 points in the All Ireland final against Kilkenny.
This hack holds his dictaphone, almost hoping that no one wants to speak to the media, but also aware that he has to file some form of copy for the following week.
One player. Just one. (No offence to anyone else) catches our eye and strolls over. Moments after a bitterly disappointing All Ireland Final defeat, Donal O’Grady chats to the media. That took some balls.
The same process would be repeated all too many times for Donal or I to even want to remember.
Win, lose or draw, the man from Granagh/Ballingarry always had a word for those who were trying to do their ‘job’.
I didn’t get an opportunity last week to mark the Limerick captain’s retirement, but I could not have left it pass without having a say.
O’Grady didn’t come through the Limerick set up with any form or hype or pageantry. The man who played Intermediate for Limerick when playing Intermediate was often ‘frowned’ upon, fought for every ball like it was his last.
The work ethic and dogged determination may even have hindered Donal’s career for a finish. Such was O’Grady’s versatility, he often ended up filling more than one on field role in a game.
It was off the field too, where O’Grady excelled. Leading his men by example.
Speaking only last season, O’Grady lamented his early arrival to hurling and only wished he was born a few years later so he could truly benefit from all that sports science has to offer the modern day player.
Inspirational points on the field, most from extreme distances, were coupled with heart warming and tear inducing speeches off of it.
The man they call ‘Dodge’ might have to retire, but he knows there was nothing ‘Dodged’ in his career.