HURLING coach Paul Beary accepts that the Limerick management had to remain steadfast in their beliefs during the rocky month of March.
The Na Piarsaigh man has revealed that much time and effort went into planning for the 2015 season last Autumn and that all involved had the confidence to remain loyal to those plans, even when league displays were below par.
“It’s challenging for me personally because I didn’t play at the highest level like TJ (Ryan) or Davy (Clarke). I know people would question my coaching experience and that but in times like that you have to back yourself. Ultimately the proof of the pudding will come on May 24,” said Beary of post-league criticism of Limerick.
Limerick failed to return to the top flight of the league for a fifth year in a row and then the weak quarter final showing against Dublin, copper fastened the woes.
“The players and management would be the first to admit that particular performance was not up to the standard we require - we couldn’t accept some of the dismissive criticism we got, people were dismissive of the training regime, dismissive of the management and dismissive of the fitness levels,” he recalled of the Dublin game in particular.
“You can’t ignore it but we didn’t dwell on it for too long to be honest. We had a meeting within a few days after we licked our wounds and did the analysis on it and we learned whatever lessons we could from it. Myself it was a funny time in so far as in the build-up to that Dublin game was the first time that we had a full squad together. At that stage promotion was gone and maybe we under estimated the impact that had on the wider panel from a morale perspective and the Kilmallock boys were coming back off the back of a disappointing defeat - so you had two sets of players looking for a lift off the other and we just couldn’t get it to the pitch we were looking for,” outlined Beary.
“Once we analysed we moved on - it was very collaborative and collected and in many ways every cloud has a silver lining because it meant we could focus on the Clare game from then for the next six or seven weeks.”
Beary is keen for all to be judged on Sunday in Semple.
For management and players the targeted performance level is what was produced in Croke Park last August.
It’s the “bench mark” according to Beary.
While the Waterford Crystal Cup and Hurling League have come and gone, thoughts of Clare have never been far from the mind for over six months now.
“From a management perspective, post-season last year before we went into this year we worked very hard and even consulted with other professional sports because we wanted to make sure that the training principles, standards and values we had in place would be of a standard that it would give the players a platform to perform to the best of their ability,” he outlined.
“Some people possibly forget that as a new management we only had the players from May 1 last year and that was only three or four months. We learned some high level stuff in terms of preparing training sessions. Obviously working on the skill sets but now the game plan and the awareness of the game plan, your own game plan and awareness of the opposition game plan is paramount in terms of preparation and that was a big learning curve for us last year,” he said.
For Beary those pre-season plan remained just as important when many called for change after the league.
“We were always happy with that - it was a case of adjusting some elements of preparation with Clare in mind. Its about finding the marginal gains, nuggets here and there and piecing it all together to give you the percentage to improve.”
What about Clare this Sunday?
“It’s everything, you can’t ignore it - this is what it is all about. It’s championship, do-or-die and I think it will be a great spectacle,” he said, almost excitedly.
“There is no doubt from our perspective we are going to Thurles with only one thing in mind. I really feel we have a lot of big characters and I think last year’s experience was huge to us. Last year’s semi final defeat, even though heart-breaking at the time, I think was huge impetus for the squad as a whole because no matter what happened since then, they can take it away that they played the best team of the generation in most difficult circumstances and it was only a fine margin at the end.”
Limerick have spoken much about game plans and this could be key on Sunday.
“There will be a lot of tactical plays on the day, which will be pivotal but irrespective of tactics 80-85% of balls played with be 50-50 and whoever is capable of winning those balls in the air and on the ground will give the platform to either team to lead a success.”