BACK in 1986 Leo O’Connor was part of the Limerick U-21 panel that lost to Galway in the semi-final of the All-Ireland championship.
One year later, O’Connor and Limerick returned to claim the county’s first national title at the grade.
After watching his young side fall to Galway by two points in Thurles on Saturday evening, the Claughaun man is adamant that his group can return to claim ultimate honours, just like the side of the mid-80’s.
“I genuinely believe that there is an All-Ireland in that team. There is another Munster championship but it is going to take a severe amont of work and that’s what’s required,” said a disappointed Limerick manager.
He added: “I think five are over age but it is a very hard long road to get back to where we are”.
“I had this experience in 1986 – we were beaten in an All-Ireland semi-final by Galway and we came back and won the All-Ireland the following year,” he explained.
But will O’Connor remain at the helm for 2012?
“I’ts probably a bit too soon to say. At the end of the day I have three years done and maybe it might be time for some one else to come along and take up the mantle,” he said.
The Limerick manager was not searching for excuses for the narrow defeat.
“I’m not blaming anyone in any way,” said O’Connor.
“We never got going – the balls that went into people’s hands against Cork, they fell out of them tonight, we got goal chances and didn’t take them. We didn’t get the start that we wanted but fair play to Galway they worked their way into it and exploited one or two things and we were always fighting for the game tonight, even though we went ahead on one or two occasions. The result went the way it did because we didn’t take our chances, ultimately.
“Balls went over the bar against Cork and they didn’t tonight and they didn’t go into the back of the net,” outlined O’Connor, who was joined in the management team by John Kiely, Pat Davoren and Pat Donnelly.
“Eight of them played in the All-Ireland U-21 final last year,” explained the Limerick boss of Galway.
“With Galway, you could see the freshness in them tonight. I said earlier in the week that they had a lot of experience coming here and they displayed that in the first 20-minutes of the game. The first 25-minutes of the game the movement of the Galwa y forwards was very very impressive. They had their gameplan well marked out. They brought their centre back very far down the field for puckouts and all the balls that were breaking they seemed to be getting onto it,” he explained.
With Limerick chasing a late fight back, Shane Dowling opted to try for a miracle goal from 30-metres in the opening seconds of injury time, when perhaps a point could have set the stage for a grandstand finish.
“That’s not the reason we lost tonight,” said the manager. “The reason we lost is because we didn’t perform to the level where we had been performing for the last two or three years. Basically we let players make up their own mind when we see chances and things going on.
“The way I saw it the free was 40 or 45 metres out and the Galway player mouthed or I don’t know what he did but it was moved in 25 yards out and Shane had a pop at it and the lad had an extraordinary second half tonight and it is the way it is”.