DEFEAT was their lot, but all will agree that pride has been restored in Limerick hurling.
The only same is that just over 15,000 people were in Thurles to witness the latest in a line of Limerick and Waterford classics.
The bookies make the champions hot favourites to advance to a another final against either Clare or Tipperary, but the Limerick camp were quietly confident of upsetting the odds.
There were positives aplenty to take from Semple Stadium and new manager Donal O’Grady could not fault his side.
“We did our best and we came up a little short and we will have no quibs going home,” said O’Grady after he led Limerick into championship battle for the first time.
“I’m not devastated - disappointed is the word. You could throw out the old cliche that a draw would have been the fair result but they deserved their win and got more scores, but we had our chances,” said the former Cork All-Ireland winning manager.
“It was a ding-dong struggle and when you lose a game in the last minute, you always look for positives and I suppose we lasted the pace well - a few of our players ran out of steam because they have had only four or five nights training behind them because we had a lot of injuries coming into the game. We had a young side and I think they stood up well and just a bit of luck at the end would have brought us home but thats the way it goes,” he said.
“I think we played well enough - we played good hurling at times. We were a little naive at other times but I couldn’t have any quids about our players - they did the best they could and just came up slightly short on the day. I think it was a good display and for the crowds in the stand they got top class entertainment and from amateur players on both sides they got full blooded effort and I am very proud of what our players served up and if we can get back up to those standards in the next match, lets see where it takes us.”
Looking beyond the result will take a few days, but the backdoor beckons.
“In the world of sport, you don’t get anything for that,” remarked O’Grady to comments of ‘positives for his side’.
“There is nothing for second and we have to travel on the qualifier route now. You are not going to get the same intensity and same sort of build up and thats what Limerick hurling needs. It needs as much experience of the big day and pressure that brings. There is far more intense preparation for the Munster championship that the qualifier route. You will be playing on a Saturday night and it won’t be the same unless you get back to the quarters.”
There were fears that coming from Division Two in the league would hamper Limerick.
“It wasn’t a case of we were beaten because of fitness,” said the manager.
“I think we lasted the pace well, I think the people that flagged were the people who were injured all along and all we got out of them was training for three or four nights before this match. I think we lasted the pace fairly well and that credit to Jerry Wallace’s physical training and other members of the backroom staff.”
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