Limerick determined to show that glory days were no flash in the pan

“We can’t underestimate how big this game is for us,” Paudie O’Brien insists.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

LIMERICK MUST WIN on Sunday to prove that they are no one-season wonders.

After losing their Munster title to Cork, the Treaty have one last chance to save their summer when they take on a buzzing Wexford in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

The euphoric reaction to Wexford’s qualifier run mirrors the scenes in Limerick last year when they clinched a long-overdue first provincial title in 17 seasons.

When many wrote them off after a flat league campaign this spring, they delivered a powerful statement by beating Tipperary in the Championship and hinted that maybe they were the real deal.

“That was the most disappointing thing [about the Munster final],” defender Paudie O’Brien said.

“We wanted to go down there and show that we’re not there for just one year. I think we have.”

There’s no doubting that Limerick had their chances in the first half against Cork but they let the Rebels off the hook and went in level at half-time.

Two second-half goals tipped the balance in Cork’s favour and allowed them one last party before the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Twenty-four points probably Munster wins a lot of finals, O’Brien points out, but that’s no consolation now.

GAA Hurling All Ireland Senior Championship Series National Launch O'Brien had one hand on Liam MacCarthy at the All-Ireland SHC national launch. Can Limerick carry on their challenge beyond Sunday? Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“The group that’s there now is there or thereabouts,” he says. “Everyone knows there’s only a puck of the ball between the teams that are left and no-one would care to call it.

“We’re going a different route this year and it might suit us a little bit better having the extra match.

“You have to look at it as if there is no other match after the next day. We can’t underestimate how big this game is for us.”

Of all the teams left in the Championship, maybe Wexford know best about those fine margins that O’Brien describes.

They twice went to extra-time before ousting All-Ireland champions Clare in a 180-minute epic, and then were pushed all the way to the wire by a defiant Waterford.

If you look back on Wexford and Clare — if Wexford had lost that match, how much would it have set them back?

“All the chances they had and, fair play to them, they showed great bottle to go on and win it.

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Cork and Limerick players walk behind the band Cork got their revenge over Limerick with a win in the Munster final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“Every single Championship match is about the small little things. A flick or a hook or a block like we saw [against Cork] is as important as a star performance.

“We’re very aware of that. All you can do in training is prepare as well as you can to give yourself the best chance of performing on the day.”

Coming into Sunday off the back of two big wins, the momentum lies with Wexford but Limerick can still draw on the defiant statement that they delivered against Tipp.

It didn’t kick-off the glorious summer their fans might have hoped for — at least, not yet anyway.

“We said we could beat Tipp and we feel we could beat Cork or any of the other teams who are left in the Championship on any given day, and I’m sure they would all feel that they could beat us.

How we finished that game against Tipp was very good but we didn’t bring that to the Munster Final.

“We didn’t finish as strong as we would have liked and that’s something we’ll address again. The next day is going to be a different game, a different kettle of fish.”

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