PATRICKSWELL’S Diarmaid Byrnes bids to follow in the footsteps of Gus Ryan, Donnacha Sheehan, Peter Lawlor and Timmy Houlihan this Saturday and lift the Cross of Cashel All Ireland U-21 hurling trophy.
The defender is one of just four players on the age of 21 in this Limerick team and makes no secret of the formula for success that the panel have followed.
“It’s down to hard work - blocking, hooking and putting hits in with hard work and determination,” he explains.
“We have the talent - you can see it through the team. There is no good having skill if you don’t have the ball and you get the ball through work rate. Matches are won on work rate and passion and if you have that you have it half won already.”
He added: “defending starts at corner forward - when you see your corner forward hooking and blocking that’s inspirational and gives the backs a boost”.
“The talent is there but the work rate is second to none - it got us over the line in the last couple of matches.”
In 2007, Byrnes and Limerick colleague Jack Kelleher were joint captains of Patrickswell NS’ Olo Cup winning side.
Now the prize is bigger.
“This is what you dream of - at the start of the year, you wouldn’t think too far ahead or even beyond the first 60-minutes of championship but now we are in a great position, coming off the back of a Munster title and a great All Ireland semi final win,” said Byrnes.
“If we were given that option back in December we would have took it with both hands - we are there now and we will see what we can do.”
As a captain Byrnes, bids to “lead by example”.
“I try to keep it cool - players look up to a captain and I try to lead them the best I can. If I am going around acting nervous and stuff they would be looking and that sends out the wrong vibe. I try to be nice and relaxed - crack the odd joke before a game. When it comes down to the business end of it I would be the first one on the table to let them know where they are and what’s on the line. It starts on the field - you can say what you want but you got to do it behind the white lines.”
Byrnes and defensive colleagues have seen off the best of Tipperary, Clare and Galway but on Saturday face another star studded attack.
“We have dealt with some of the best underage hurlers in the country so we don’t dwell too much on that. You can get caught up on looking at tapes of guys and what they have done. Wexford have shooting power and they are on the age but it’s nothing we haven’t dealt with this year,” said Byrnes.
“Clare and Tipp were strong sides with a lot of seniors and shooting power and we dealt with that and drove on. We started off well (against Galway) and that gave us a cushion of five or six points and in championship hurling you never know what to expect and you can never plan everything out - we have dealt with anything that was thrown at us all year.”