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'If you told me or people in Limerick that we would win what we have, not many would have believed you'

After nine seasons with Treaty teams, Dan Morrissey’s first medal came in the 2018 All-Ireland final. The versatile defender has since added another Celtic Cross and two All-Stars.

Updated May 3rd 2021, 3:01 PM

THE 2018 ALL-IRELAND triumph was a massive breakthrough for the Limerick hurlers.

John Kiely’s men ended a 45-year wait for Liam MacCarthy glory in Croke Park that day, the outpour of emotion that followed telling you all you needed to know.

There was a sense that it had been coming, recent underage successes pointing to an inevitable translation onto the senior stage — although that isn’t always the way.

gpa-return-to-play-media-event Limerick hurler Dan Morrissey was speaking at the GPA Return to Play Media Event. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Dan Morrissey was one who just missed out on winning teams at minor and U21 level — himself, David Reidy and the now-retired Shane Dowling the “unlucky” class of ’93.

After nine years with Limerick teams, that All-Ireland senior final was the first day he would win a medal in Treaty hurling colours.

Of course, another All-Ireland win followed in 2020, along with All-Stars to cap both glittering seasons. There were also Munster championship triumphs and Division 1 league crowns in 2019 and 2020.

Little did Morrissey know what lay ahead after that 2018 breakthrough.

“It still feels a bit surreal,” the Ahane defender says. “Even you go back to 2017 or the start of 2018, if you told me or people in Limerick that we would win what we have won the last three years, not many would have believed you.

“To have won what we have as a team and individually, to have collected the two All-Stars, yeah, it’s something you would dream of since you were a child, winning All-Irelands for your county.

“It has been a bit mad around Limerick the last few years. You can really see the appetite for hurling among supporters and they are following it day and night. You’re asked questions about it the whole time, whether it’s on the street or you go down to the club and people are just proud to be from Limerick at the moment so long may the success continue.”

dan-morrissey-mike-casey-kevin-downes-and-william-omeara-celebrate-after-the-game Morrissey (left) celebrating in 2018. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

There’s no doubt about it, the Treaty are the dominant hurling side right now.

Success aside, their remarkable physical conditioning is something many point to, suggesting it may give them an edge. Others may feel it’s more mental than physical.

When asked, Morrissey can’t put his finger on one exact thing that turned them into a winning team straight away, but after a bit of thought, he settles on one big result in the 2018 league campaign which brought massive belief.

“In Limerick we would have always felt we had good teams. Even my first few years on the panel, 2014 was my first year, I know we were unlucky and got beaten in an All-Ireland semi that year. We would have always felt we had strong teams but we maybe were missing something small to get over the line.

“Going back to say, the start of 2018, it’s very hard to pinpoint one exact moment or one exact thing that changed everything. I do think that beating Galway in the league… we were stuck in kind of 1B of the league for I think seven, eight years. To get over Galway, they were the All-Ireland champions, up in Salthill, that was probably a big milestone and that kind of gave us the belief that we were really able to compete with the top four, five teams.

“Then 2018 took off. It was the first year of the round-robin series. It felt like it just went so quick. It was such an exciting, open championship where there were five or six teams that probably could have won it. Yeah, to be honest the last three years have just gone so quickly. It’s just great to be at the top table now.”

Heightened conversation, expectation and pressure is part and parcel of dining at the top table, those extra factors things Morrissey and his side have become accustomed to over the past few seasons.

There’s been no shortage of talk around Limerick dominating of late, but that’s easy to shut out, the 28-year-old says.

dessie-hutchinson-with-dan-morrissey Facing Dessie Hutchinson in the 2020 final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

 

“I think we’re a very good bunch to block out outside noise. We know we’ve had a great few years but we don’t get ahead of ourselves. We kinda take it game by game.

“I know it’s a bit of a cliche but there are six or seven teams who can beat each other on any given day. A lot of games are only won by a puck of a ball. Even in 2018, we were very lucky to come out on the right side in a couple of games and in 2019, it probably came against us when we were beaten by a point in the All-Ireland semi-final.

“There is very little between teams, even when you look at how competitive the Munster championship is. We know we have a good team, we’re going to try and win as much as we can for as long as we can but I’m sure there are other counties saying the exact same as well.”

After a “lot more muted” celebrations following the 2020 final — the two hours together in the dressing room at HQ were probably the most special of all: “Just being there in our own bubble and having a singsong, they’re the things you will remember in years to come” — the focus is on continuing the upward trajectory.

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In a “tough group” for the league, with “no easy games” coming against Tipperary, Galway and Waterford early on, Morrissey is looking forward to getting back to business.

The big question is where he will line out, having excelled at full-back last year after a string of injury blows against the clock.

“It was an enjoyable experience,” he assures, though uncertain whether he’ll back to more familiar territory in the half-back line going forward.

It wasn’t completely uncharted territory, though. In 2016, he lined out in the number three position against Tipperary, tasked with keeping an eye on talisman Seamus Callanan, while he spent some of his underage career there.

tom-morrissey-and-dan-morrissey-lift-the-liam-maccarthy-cup Lifting the silver in 2020 with his brother, Tom. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

That said, he saw improvements when he was reinstated there last season.

“From 2016 to last year I do think my performances have gradually improved. I played a brief stint in my first year at U21s, back in 2012, I played full-back as well. So the position wasn’t completely alien to me. I learned the tricks of the trade back there.

“Players are so versatile now and the game has changed that you have to be just used to whatever position you pop up in because forwards move around so much. The day of six forwards playing in their six positions is well and truly gone. You’re never going to be marking the same player for 70 minutes of a game. You’re probably going to be on five or six different players over the course of a game and maybe even a few subs who come on. I think the day of a full-back just standing on the edge of the square marking a full-forward is well and truly gone.

“I don’t know where I will be playing yet,” he concludes. “Last year was a bit of a change going back to the full-back line but as of this year I actually don’t know where I will be lining out. As long as I get a starting jersey, I won’t complain, whether that is in the forwards or the backs.”

Different Backgrounds; One Association – Doireann O’Sullivan, Sarah Dervan, Paul Geaney and Dan Morrissey were taking part in the GPA’s Return to Play event to mark the first season where all senior inter-county players are part of the one player Association.

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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