'He was a pure beast of a man and poor Jack was in the wrong place at the wrong time'

Former Limerick captain Brian Geary recalls a devastating impact from the Rock in 2001.

FORMER LIMERICK HURLING captain Brian Geary says this current Limerick squad is refusing to be held back by their recent barren history and are hell-bent on finding a performance that will deliver a first All-Ireland final in 11 years.

Brian Geary Geary in action in 2009. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Geary has worked as a selector alongside John Kiely since they took charge in 2016, but he played as a centre-back on one of the last Limerick teams to beat Cork in the championship, back in 2001. Since then Limerick have only beaten Cork once in seven championship meetings – their 2013 Munster final win.

The Monaleen club man was a rock in that Limerick side and was a leading light in his 12-year inter-county career, but he has memories of another ‘Rock’ from that clash.

With Cork six points behind in that Munster quarter-final Rebel full-back Diarmuid ‘Rock’ O’Sullivan broke out of defence, delivered a massive shoulder and fired over a point from inside his own 45 to kickstart a comeback. Geary still feels the force.

I saw the ball sailing over my head alright! I can remember Jack Foley lifting himself up off the ground.

“He was a pure beast of a man and poor Jack was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Geary.

“Barry Foley put over a sideline cut (to win it). Championship matches were knock-out back then and they were hard won and we enjoyed it the few we got.

Diarmuid O'Sullivan and Ciaran Carey DIGITAL Diarmuid O'Sullivan of Cork and Ciaran Carey in 2001. Source: Patrick Bolger/INPHO

“It would (be one of the best wins). Looking at my own career, there wasn’t many sweet victories like that but when we did they were very enjoyable.

“It was a long time ago but you could say that about a lot of counties. Going back to Kilkenny, we know the timeframe since we beat them last.

“I know this group don’t look back or look at records. If you asked some of the younger lads they mightn’t be sure when we played a senior match last in Croke Park. It’s very much focused on last year and very much performance-focused.”

That determination in the group has grown all season it seems. A league win over All-Ireland champions Galway in Pearse Stadium seemed like a coming of age result for Limerick as it earned them promotion to the top flight, but it was in the Munster championship that they showed they could transfer that spring form into summer hurling.

Doubts were still hanging around about the steeliness of this team though, however their win over Kilkenny in the quarter-final was signed off with a cool display in the closing minutes with Brian Cody’s side charging back into the game.

Onwards and upwards

“They showed great character, there’s no doubting that but they don’t go back on history. I just know by this group and I’m sure there are other counties that do the same.

“It’s very much onwards and upwards and what we can do, not what the teams did before us and what records are. It’s important it stays that way because if it changes you can take your eye off the ball.

“Their dedication is second to none. If they’re asked to do something they’ll do it. They have been pushed very hard in training but the overriding factor is enjoyment. They were doing X amount and there was improvement.

“Obviously, these lads have success in colleges and U21s and they’re used to it but they want to be make their mark on the senior set-up.

When lads are willing to work that hard, it makes things that bit easier. You’re only as good as your last game, the lads know that and an All-Ireland semi-final is there to be won.”

Having only retired from the game back in 2012 Geary is now managing some players that he hurled with in his latter in-county years. Nickey Quaid, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon, Paul Browne, Shane Dowling and Graeme Mulcahy were all in that 2008 team and are key leaders in the current squad, and Geary is impressed by their character.

“The boys have been excellent. The panel to a member really have been pulling their weight. There are 36 lads there. They all know they can’t all tog out on the day of a match so that’s the hardest part.

“It’s the ten lads, it’s their impression on training and trying to get into the 26 that’s been immense and that’s kinda what is driving on everyone forward and they’ve been led by those so-called elder statesmen.”

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Declan Rooney

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