DURING Donal O’Grady’s term as Cork senior hurling manager one of the more memorable games was the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final against Wexford.
The Rebels needed a replay before advancing to the final after the sides finished 2-20 to 3-17 in a pulsating drawn game.
Limerick hurling fans won’t necessarily demand such enthralling encounter on Saturday, but the importance of Saturday’s qualifier is not lost on O’Grady.
“It is one of the most important games for Limerick in recent years,” Donal O’Grady told LeaderSport.
He added: “No one wants to finish up in July”.
A win on Saturday will see Limerick back in action against on July 9 against either Cork or Antrim in a tie that would be one step from an All-Ireland quarter-final.
After defeat in the provincial championship, regrouping for the backdoor can be mental more than anything else. In Limerick’s case there should be much to play for, after an encouraging display against Waterford.
“It was a long lead-in to the Waterford game but this is a different animal - qualifiers are always a bit different. It’s a strange competition unless you get a run of wins - the crowds are smaller, the atmosphere is different and it can be a difficult place to be,” explained O’Grady.
“The games can be more about not losing, whereas in the Munster championship you go out and give it everything to win. They can be poor games, more like a game of wait and see. It is more like a horse race where the jockeys are all watching each other and then they let fly in the final furlong.”
He is hoping that home venue will be a help rather than a hindrance.
“Players normally feed off the atmosphere and of course that works both ways because the players have to give the crowd something to cheer about and it can take a big tackle, a score of a passage of play. In any game you go out and try and play to your potential - if you get 80 per cent in any championship game you are happy.”
O’Grady explained how Wexford provide a different challenge to Waterford.
“Wexford are tougher, a more physical team - good hurlers but probably more physical than Waterford. They did well against Kilkenny, maybe not on the scoreboard, but they will be itching to get going against Limerick. Wexford have the benefit of playing in Division One,” he outlined, recalling their impressive displays against Cork and Tipperary at the end of the league.
“We are going into the game as slight favourites and we are just hoping to get things right. The players are going well in training but the acid test is Saturday night.”