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O’Grady taking lessons of ’07 to keep Limerick’s eye on the ball

“At times there was a desperate bad vibe and it wasn’t good” said the Limerick captain.

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

LIMERICK CAPTAIN DONAL O’Grady is determined to stop a repeat of the ‘bad vibes’ which dogged his county in the aftermath of their last Munster Senior Hurling Championship final.

Limerick lost out to Waterford by nine points in the 2007 decider, yet still went on to reach the All Ireland final that September. Coming up for breath empty handed after such a long summer is tough to take.

“After 2007 there was huge hope. I think Limerick again got carried away and said we were in the final in ’07 we are going to do very well in 08 and as it turned out we didn’t, we did the opposite.” Says O’Grady.

“We did very poorly, then the negative thing starts creeping in again: ‘these fellas are only show-boaters they were in the All-Ireland final but won nothing.’ That was hard alright.”

Keeping the excitement of a population as large as Limerick’s on an even keel is tough going. The celebrating fans after their semi-final win made O’Grady double-check that it hadn’t actually been a final he was playing. With former Cork boss John Allen at the helm though, the skipper knows the public interest still not as intense as what Cork and Kilkenny teams deal with.

“The supporters are there all the time but when you are winning they really come on board. You can see that it is going to be a sell out. It is a hard thing to do but in fairness to John Allen, he is coming from his background with Cork and he can see the hype that surrounds teams so he is kind of very open with people but when we are training we are very much in the zone and focusing on the task ahead.

He adds: “I am working for myself and everyone that comes into the shop, whether they have an interest in hurling or not, ask me about Sunday but that is part and parcel of it. God knows what Kilkenny feel like, they are getting it all the time and we are getting just a taste of it.

“My concern is that we have a lot of young players so it is important that they are really nurtured. We probably made the mistake in ’07 in the All-Ireland final, it just got out of control and it was impossible to stop.”

“At times there was a desperate bad vibe and it wasn’t good to be honest but I think now everybody seems to be pulling in the right direction. At least there is a feel good factor there now.”

The side out to put an abrupt end to the soaring hope by the Shannon are Cork. 2006 was the last time the Rebels won the most competitive provincial hurling title, so there won’t be anything taken for granted on Leeside. You have to trawl back much further to find the last time Limerick met Cork in the decider.

“Would you believe I was at it in 1992.” O’Grady says as he pictures his 12-year-old self watching from the terrace in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. He quickly returns to the here and now to underline that Sunday’s showdown at the Gaelic Ground is not about avenging his pre-teen heartbreak, or about beating Cork. Instead, it’s about ending Limerick’s 17-year spell without a Championship win.

“I’m more interested in the relief of Limerick getting the monkey off the back and winning a Munster title,” he says.

“Genuinely, if I look back in years to come and I won a Munster medal with Limerick, oh my God I’d be absolutely delighted.”

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