03 Oct 2022

Opinion: 'I envisage one ferocious battle at Croker on Sunday' - Shane Dowling

Opinion: I envisage one ferocious battle at Croker on Sunday - Shane Dowling

Limerick's William O'Donoghue looks to get away from Kilkenny players, from left, Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly, and TJ Reid during the 2019 All-Ireland hurling semi-final

THIS is what its all about really, All-Ireland final week. It doesn’t get much better then this - well it can't really.

At the start of every year, without stating the obvious, there are only two counties who can enjoy this week. Limerick has always been a fantastic sporting county, and we do things right. When Munster Rugby were flying, look what the city did in 2006 with the big screen on O'Connell St for the final.

In 2018 for the All-Ireland hurling final between Limerick and Galway, what they did with the big screen in the Gaelic Grounds, and the homecoming was a sight that I will bring with me to my grave.

Look what JP McManus brought to the people of Limerick last week with the Pro Am in Adare. To have the calibre of people that were here on our doorstep - just unbelievable.

And it will be the same in 2027 for the Ryder Cup. If Limerick is nothing else, it's sports mad. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, or where it's on, if anyone associated with Limerick in the sporting world is achieving or representing, we are there. And we support.

And it just happens that we are now in the era of following the success of the Limerick hurlers. Trust me, we will be saying, in time - when I don’t know - 'They were great times I'd do anything to have them back.'

So live in the moment, take it all in, because these are unique times. Whether you are travelling to Dublin on Saturday, on Sunday or going to enjoy the final on your holidays or on your couch, savour it all. Because I envisage one ferocious battle this Sunday.

So what's it like for the players on lead up to the All-Ireland final? I have often wondered what professional soccer players do before big games, or what acts do before big concerts? I'm sure people would love to know what players do on this two-week build up to the All-Ireland hurling final.

Generally, Monday would be recovery day after an All-Ireland semi-final and what better way to recover then getting rid of lactic acid by walking around Adare Manor at the JP Manus Pro Am alongside Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, etc. Of course that’s not the norm, but a nice treat all the same.

Tuesday would have been back to training, some going at it harder then others, depending on game time two days previous. But Tuesday would have been more than that. It would have been about getting tickets sorted, getting suits sorted, and any other side shows that go with it. Why Tuesday? Because the earlier you get this stuff done the better, you don’t need to be dealing with it or any distractions.

In 2018, we had to get a family member to deal with the County Board, all the tickets, all the money, etc. It was a super idea and players didn’t have to be dealing with it, making loads of phone calls and be constantly talking about the game.

I'd imagine this time around was no different. Wednesday looked to be media night, where John Kiely, Declan Hannon and Cian Lynch attended. Again, get it done early in the week and get another box ticked.

Friday was back to brass tax. Video analysis, a proper session, all players recovered from Sunday and your first hard session back. Saturday would have been about recovery and keeping the head down.

Sunday was the big day. That would have been the in-house game, seven days before an All-Ireland final. That was your chance to showcase your form and show that you were ready.

I don’t know how they do it now, but we used to have outside referees coming, before a stop was put to that, and John stood in the middle himself. All I will say is, thank God he is a better manager then he is referee!

On Tuesday evening before the final, it was some buzz going into the Gaelic Grounds. Nice weather, hard work done, 60 minutes or so of a session and out the gap.

Seanie O'Donnell, who is the head video analysis man, and a genius, would be working over time to get every detail possible to all the players.

Friday would last 35 minutes or so, team named, and possibly a 99! On Sunday, the lads would hit for the train station before Kev Griffin the bus driver would meet them above in Heuston Station in Dublin. They would depart to a location where they get there meal before hitting to Croker. In between all that though, the secret is trying to hide.

For example, you would be advised not to watch Up for the Match on RTE TV the night before the game, advised not to be reading 'eejits' like me talking about the game and in general keeping focused.

You cant really enjoy the build up. Well, you can, but it just wouldn’t end well. It's about one thing - winning!
And whatever is the best formula to ensure you give yourself every chance possible, well that’s what you will do. The players, and management are experienced enough at this stage, and to be honest for them, it will be clock work.

So, when it comes down to it, what's going to happen? The honest answer is, I don’t know! Some games, you really fancy a side, or you can't see past someone. I just think this is going to be a classic.

Kilkenny - I would have huge admiration for them. Just genuine, hard working, and honest. No sideshows and what you see is what you get.

And you know when you play them, by God they will die with there boots on. But guess what, so do we! We always have and Sunday will be no different.

I am just hoping that we play to our potential, because if we do that, it should be enough. It will be enough. I know it will, but we got to get whatever is inside of us out. And they will be primed for just that! Bring it on. Cuimhnigh ar Luimneach agus Luimneach abú.

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