ANTHONY Owens wore the green and white of Limerick in the 2010 championship but will be supporting his native Kilkenny this Sunday.
As the All Ireland semi-final approaches the former Limerick inter-county full forward is bracing himself for the “banter” around Dooley Park.
“I haven’t been converted yet,” joked Owens this week.
A native of Castlecomer, inKilkenny, Owens, a Garda based in Tipperary Town, joined South Liberties ahead of the 2008 season.
“In Castlecomer the home club, Erins Own, were always seniors. Actually we have the unwanted tag of being the longest serving senior club without a county title,” explained Owens.
“We actually got relegated in 2002 and then came straight back up winning the intermediate in 2003,” he recalled of his home club.
Six years later he was part of the Liberties team that finally returned to senior status.
“After Templemore (Garda Training College) I was stationed in Tipperary Town. The long drive home was starting to get to me with shift work and everything. One of the lads in the station - Cathal Godfrey - was always to me to come to Liberties and eventually it came to the point that I had to do something or give up hurling altogether,” he recalled.
“Sometimes people switch clubs and regret it but I have to say everyone in Liberties have been great from players, officials and everyone involved in the club. I did go back home for two years but that was because my brother was still hurling and I kinda wanted to see out his years together.”
Aside from the intermediate club championships in his native and adopted county, Owens also has a number of other notable medals.
“I would have been involved with the Kilkenny U-21s in 2003 and ‘04,” he recalled reluctantly.
“I was more on the extended panel - there were lads like Richie Power, Michael Rice, JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh, David Herity on those teams.”
The net result was two All Ireland and Leinster U-21 medals.
“I have the medals but sur I wasn’t really playing,” he said modestly.
Those two years also brought two Fitzgibbon Cup medals with Waterford IT. The first of those WIT winning teams included Limerick’s Ollie Moran.
While the phonecall never arrived from Brian Cody, Owens did get the Limerick call - in 2010.
“It was always my dream to play inter-county - I was too fond of hurling to turn down the opportunity,” he recalled.
“Since I was knee high I wanted to play county and I had been in Liberties a couple of years so I didn’t really mind that it was Limerick. Of course I would have preferred Kilkenny but I was more than happy to join up with Limerick.
“We all know it wasn’t a particularly good year for Limerick. My my point of view, my only pity is that I probably wasn’t in the best of shape when the call came but that year certainly got me back on track fitness wise.”
That league campaign for Justin McCarthy’s side brought Limerick into competition with Kilkenny.
“I will never forget that. “I was working - I got a six to two shift and there was no way I could get it changed,” he recalled.
So what of the current Limerick set-up?
“They are creating a lot of chances - there are some poor wides but they will come right some day and I would not be one bit surprised if they were to win it. There is no doubt that Kilkenny are not as strong as they were and Limerick have found consistency. They got to Croke Park last year and got back there again this year - in other years it was a good year followed by a bad year for Limerick.”
While accepting that Kilkenny may not be at their strongest of the Cody era, Owens feels that others are now aspiring to reach the levels set by The Cats.
“It’s very hard to keep any team at the top level but I think all counties are now catching up.”
To catch-up all levels of hurling, need to share the aspiration.
He recalls that close to 90% of his former Erins Own team would only play hurling, a situation he rarely sees in Limerick.
“There is one rugby club in Kilkenny, I don’t even know how many there are in Limerick. And, then soccer - there is soccer in Kilkenny but not to the same standard as here. The reality is that guys aren’t always available then to hurling.”
What of Sunday?
“Last year the excitement took over the entire county - this year it is a bit more cagey with everyone a bit quieter.”
That is until next week when Owens hopes to hold the bragging rights against his Liberties team-mates.