DESPITE a stirring win over Clare in Saturday night’s gripping Allianz Hurling League Division 2 final in Ennis, Limerick manager Donal O’Grady says his side have a lot of work to do to be ready for Waterford in the Munster semi-final on June 12.
Limerick came from behind to record a five-point win but the Corkman says that Waterford are operating at a much higher level than his side. When asked if Saturday’s win would be good preparation for the championship, he was cautious about Limerick’s expectatations getting out of hand.
“I don’t know if it’s any preparation because you’re coming up against Division 1 teams for the first time,” he said after the game. “Going in now against a Division 1 team in the championship is going to be a huge step up. All we’ll do is that we’ll train as well as we can, we’ll play as well as we can. To get out of Division 2 is good but I never mentioned Division 1 or Division 2 or finals since I came in but everyone is aware of the challenges ahead of us. I’m a realist and it’s going to be like climbing Mount Everest after practising on Carrantuohill.”
O’Grady said it was important for Limerick to get back into Division 1 next year and he was happy with how his side responded in the second half when they went four points down. “It’s not so much a league title but the important thing was to get things back on track and to win as many matches as we could. At the start of the year we just set out to get performances. I think when the chips were down near the end, when it looked like the game was beyond us, our defence was magnificent. I think in the heel of the hunt, that’s what got us over the line.”
O’Grady was also full of praise for Kevin Downes as he produced a moment of magic to score the match-winning goal. “Downes got a great goal, I don’t know how he got it in from where he was but in any sport if you can tag two big scores on one after another, it breaks the heart of the opposition. That goal and a point put fierce pressure on Clare and they had to try things up front they wouldn’t usually try. Once they did, that started suiting us and with seven or eight minutes to go, we started to dominate.”
And while O’Grady was delighted to see Limerick escape Division 2, he said he felt sorry for Clare having to ply their trade in the lower tier again next year. “I have to say that I feel a bit for Clare,” he added. “This will be their third year going into Division 2 and really when you look at that match there was nothing between the teams. If we had to play again tomorrow or next week, it could turn out differently. Because Clare had chances and maybe the pressure of playing at home or maybe the pressure of staying in Division 2 got to them. But we’re happy with the win and from now on, everything else is a bonus.”
Captain Gavin O’Mahony was also of the view that the leagues should be restructured to allow Clare into the top division as well. “Clare are a Division 1 team and I can’t see why they hold teams down. Are you telling me that Clare wouldn’t put it up to any of the Division 1 teams? I think it’s ridiculous. No disrespect to Division 2 teams but some of the beatings they got off Clare won’t do them any good either. I think an extra team or two in Division 1 would be a good idea.”
But while O’Mahony was thrilled with the win, he’s not getting carried away either as he knows Waterford will represent a much different challenge. “It’s a stepping stone for us. It is good win but Waterford are a big step up. They’re a good team, they’re a more experienced team they’re well drilled and it’s going to be a huge task for us. But we’ll enjoy today and we’ll be happy to be back in League 1 now next year.”