LIMERICK’S senior hurlers get the defence of the National Hurling League underway this Saturday evening with a visit to Semple Stadium in Thurles to take on All-Ireland champions Tipperary.
John Kiely’s men saw off Tipperary in the Munster Hurling League clash before Christmas, but will know that a very different challenge awaits them as the competitive hurling season gets underway.
However, Limerick do come into the game in fine form after a comprehensive win in the pre-season competition’s final over Cork last time out. William O’Donoghue is one player that missed out on that campaign due to injury, but is fit and ready to go ahead of Saturday’s clash.
He was a key part of Limerick’s Munster Championship victory last season after solidifying a starting spot in midfield and is delighted to be fit and available for this season’s league having missed out in 2019.
“I just picked up a knock before Christmas that ruled me out. I was able to partake in a good bit of the training, but was ruled out of the matches. I wouldn’t have been able to perform at the capacity that would have been needed with the competition that we are striving for in the squad.”
O’Donoghue was an ever present in midfield after getting a start in their second Munster Championship game of 2019 against Waterford. “When things didn’t go well the first day against Cork, the management decided to make a few changes and I managed to get in and keep my spot.
“It’s a very tough thing to do. It’s not just on a Sunday in the LIT Gaelic Grounds or in Thurles that you do that, you have to compete in every single drill. If I hadn’t improved I definitely wouldn’t have got in anyway. There is no way that you can be going back to a year ago for your best performance.”
William O’Donoghue – Limerick Hurler
Limerick’s bid for consecutive All-Ireland’s came to an end with a one-point defeat to Kilkenny at Croke Park. It was a disappointing defeat after clawing back a nine-point early deficit. However, O’Donoghue says that defeat is not a motivating factor heading into the 2020 season.
“It’s probably been alluded to a few times where people are saying that we should be very disappointed that we lost to Kilkenny and that needs to be the catalyst for a good year. We got beaten by a fantastic Kilkenny team with brilliant talent and an incredible work rate.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that they were able to do that and probably could have won an All-Ireland on another day. The hurt is going to be there obviously, but had we won that game we would still need to have found improvements for this year.
“We are consistently just trying to build on last week, the week before and find one or two per cent over the next few months. Hopefully they all add up, but there are certainly a lot of areas of improvement.
“It’s not just the hurt from last year, it’s the want and energy to do well. We are not carrying any baggage from it, but we are certainly trying to perform to the best of our ability.”
O’Donoghue, who was speaking at the launch of the Allianz Hurling Leagues at Croke Park earlier this week, also gave an insight into the level of competition within the Limerick squad.
Every session and every drill is a trial. There is a competitive element to everything. You have to have it that way.
“It has to be that competitive if we want to be a successful team. Everyone needs to be that competitive with one another. That’s only a positive thing. There is a lot of competition in the midfield sector. There are five or six of us that are in the reckoning and we just want to be contributing.” Limerick v Tipperary is live on eirSport this Saturday and has a 5:15pm throw in.