Limerick's 2013 Munster SHC Final victory over Cork was a very significant triumph for the Treaty County because it was the first time they'd won a senior provincial title since 1996. - By John Harrington of GAA.ie
They hadn't managed to win a single Munster championship match from 2008 to 2012, so the 2013 Munster Final victory meant an awful lot to the county's supporters and was celebrated with gusto.
Two of that Limerick team's greatest stalwarts, team captain Donal O'Grady and Munster Final man of the match, James Ryan, took a trip down memory lane with GAA.ie to give a colourful insight into just how much that win meant to the Shannonsiders.
Q: Limerick reached that 2013 Munster Final by beating Tipperary in the semi-final. That would have been a very significant win for that Limerick team, wouldn't it?
Donal O'Grady: It would have been. It was a really hot day in front of a home crowd in the Gaelic Grounds and I would have actually struggled in the lead up to that game because I'd broken my collar-bone eight weeks before and hadn't really much training done. In fairness to John (Allen), he started me that day and it was a great game and a great win for us.
A lot of people would say of Limerick that we're a great team when we've a bit of momentum going and to get that win was brilliant and set us up nicely for a Munster Final in the Gaelic Grounds as well.
James Ryan: Before that match I think we hadn't won a Munster Championship match since 2007. We had been on a right barren run.
Beating Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds in 2013 was the start of a new revival in Limerick hurling in terms of starting to win a few Munster Championship games again.
We had played Tipperary in 2012 and dominated them completely up to the 60th minute and then they got a goal against the run of play and kicked on and won it by a couple of points and you were saying to yourself afterwards that we were as good as them if not better on the day but let it slip from us.
We were saying to ourselves afterwards that we need to start digging in more in games and showing a bit more resolve to get over the line and that's what we did in 2013. Losing the way we did to them in 2012 had a lot to do with the way we beat them in 2013.
Q: Can you remember what the feeling in the camp was coming up to the Munster Final? It had been a long time since Limerick had won a Munster Championship. Have you any memories of what the build-up was like?
Donal O'Grady: John Allen was a brilliant manager for us at the time because he wouldn't have been as worked up by a Munster Championship as maybe Limerick people were because it had been so long since we won one. He was much more cool about the whole thing and that filtered down to us as well. He kept us very grounded and was a very cool customer. Yes, it was a big day for us, but at the same time John's experience of similar days with Cork probably stood to us.
James Ryan: I remember we did a training camp below in Fota Island and it was the closest thing to warm-weather training you could have done. We trained extremely well. The pitch was incredible, it was like playing in Croke Park. They were cutting it with the putting-green cutters.
I just remember that the mood in the camp was good. John Allen had a great way about him. He had everyone feeling like you were part of the whole. And, as a team, we all got on really well together which made for a great training camp. We got great work done and there was definitely a great buzz coming away from it. You were thinking, "There's something different about this".
From a personal point of view, for the two or three weeks leading up to the Final I had a hand injury. It was my hurley hand, and every time I'd pick up the hurley it was losing power. It wasn't a broken bone or anything, I'd say it was just bruising to the bone or something with the nerves. But when you're only two or three weeks away from a Munster Final you'd be nervous.
I was with the running coach doing a load of bands running and resistance running. While the boys were out enjoying their hurling in the sun, I was running up and down, up and down. My whole focus was just trying to get myself into a place where I could play the match because of the injury. So maybe the fact that it was a huge match was gone out of my head at that stage, which might have helped.
There was huge hype around the place. It was our first Munster Final in a long time.
The one thing I remember saying to myself from a psychological point of view before the was, 'This is it'. I was sick of getting beat, I knew we were as good as anyone else. I just remember having this 'I'm sick of losing' kind of an attitude before the game.
I felt I hadn't played as well as I could have in the Munster semi-final, I even got taken off with ten minutes to go, and I used all of that as motivation. I knew I could do more for the team to help them win the game. I'll never forget, I just had a different mindset going into that Munster Final.
Q: The game itself took a while to settle down. Cork hit some bad wides and Limerick struggled to find a groove early on?
Donal O'Grady: Definitely. It was a strange kind of a game, actually. Obviously Patrick Horgan's sending-off had a big bearing on it. It was an absolutely cracking day, 27 or 28 degree heat, a full-house in the Gaelic Grounds. It was a cauldron.
In fairness it took us a while to get going but then when we had the extra-man that helped and we had good strength in depth on the bench as well which helped get us over the line.
John was very conscious it was a squad game and would always use four or five subs and we were lucky to have that energy coming on. The likes of Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes, and Cathal King were full of energy and Niall Moran and Conor Alliss made great impacts when they came in too. It was a big help.
Q: Limerick hit seven unanswered points in the closing stages and for the final few minutes it was obvious you would win. There was a serious atmosphere in the ground at that stage, Limerick supporters were ecstactic. What was that like as a player? Did you allow yourself to think you were going to win this?
Donal O'Grady: (laughs) I remember it well! The supporters were nearly on the field before the final whistle went. It was strange, actually, we'd waited so long to win a Munster Championship and with maybe seven minutes to go I knew we probably had it won but you just couldn't believe it until that final whistle went.
There was a great comfort (in the lead) and every puck-out that Anthony Nash took we just seemed to be able to come onto it in the last 10 or 12 minutes and we got great scores. You could see the body language of the Cork lads, they were deflated. They knew it probably just wasn't their day and were struggling with 14. Yeah, it was great, but at the same time you'd give a glance over to the sideline every now and again and John Allen was just standing there nice and calm with his arms folded and that got through the whole team as well, not to get too carried away which was great.
Q: James, you ended up with the Man of the Match award so the day couldn't have gone any better for your personally?
James Ryan: It's brilliant to win Man of the Match in anything, but we were really trained at that time that it was all about the team. It's like the Limerick team the way they play at the moment, it's all about the team. The individual rewards will come after it if you have that attitude.
Obviously I was delighted with it, but the main reason I was happy because I felt that day that everything I had done was for the team, if you know what you mean? Everyone around me was the same, everyone was making the right decisions on the ball.
If there was a man in a better position, the ball was popped out. I remember near the end of the game one of the lads had a chance for a score. There was a slight chance he might have been blocked down, I don't think he would have been, but he still popped the ball to the man on the outside even though we were seven or eight points up at that stage. All the good teams play as teams, there's no individual stuff.
We just had a really good group of players. I even remember going into the dressing-room after the match and a couple of lads came over and they were delighted for me. There was just that thing about the team. Everyone was in it for the team, everyone was in it for Limerick.
Q: There were incredible scenes when the final whistle blew and Limerick supporters invaded the pitch. Can you remember who the first person you met in those moments was?
Donal O'Grady: My father was the first person, would you believe? It was strange! I think he came down close to the wire without about five minutes to go so he was in fairly quick. It was gas, one of the stewards from the Munster Council ran straight for me as well to get me off the pitch and up into the stand and out of the mayhem to accept the cup.
I had probably just 10 seconds with my father before I was taken away by the steward, but it was long enough to celebrate with a hug. He was just delighted, it was great.
It's amazing when you're on the ground and the crowd is around you. It's great, you can see the elation on the supporters' faces. And then once you get up the steps and look back down it's incredible. There must have been 25 thousand Limerick supporters if not more on the pitch for a finish. It was just amazing sight and a great day for Limerick.
We were lucky too in so far as where we were getting the cup was near where all our families were sitting so my wife and two young kids were there. It was lovely. Just relief for us really because while we'd always been competitive in the Munster Championship we were always that bit short of winning it so it was great to get over the line that day.
James Ryan: It's funny, the first person I saw when the crowd came in was my brother. I don't know how, because he wouldn't be the fastest runner in the world, if he wouldn't mind be saying that. But he somehow got into the middle of the pitch a lot quicker than most to jump around the place.
If you had a camera on who is running to who after the match I'd say it would be an unbelievable comedy sketch. It must be hilarious to see how these people manage to get onto the pitch first, they must be nearly running before the final whistle even blows!
It was just unbelievable joy. I had a tear in my eye with about a minute to go because we knew we had it won and you could relax with a minute to go.
It was such a hot day and you put so much effort into these games as players would know, that it was actually an uncomfortable feeling a minute after the pitch invasion because I couldn't catch my breath. The body heat of thousands of people coming and you're trying to catch your breath. You're trying to take your helmet off but you couldn't drop your helmet and hurley because you'd never see them again!
It was the first time I could understand why they stop pitch invasions for the safety of players because it was so hot. You wouldn't take that moment back either though because it was just pure elation just to see the happiness on people's faces. You'd nearly get more satisfaction from seeing the joy of the supporters than anything else, it's an amazing thing.
Q: James, it's interesting that it was a family member that made it out to both you and Donal first. Clearly it means so much for them because they appreciate better than anyone else the sacrifices that inter-county players make.
James Ryan: It was near the end of my inter-county career or it might have been even just after it when my family opened up to me one night and were saying it's not the easiest thing in the world to be the family-member of a county player. When you have a bad game you can't hear what's going on in the stand, but they're listening to it and hear all about it when you make a mistake. Now, when you do something good, they hear about that too. They have to take the good and the bad and are nearly hitting every ball with you.
Another thing they let me know was that if I had played badly or Limerick had lost a game, some supporters tend to take it out on the people that are closest to you. So they're more than entitled to enjoy the good days when they come because they have a lot less good days than bad days putting up with our hamstrings and mood-swings and all of that! You'd hear all about that when the wives and girlfriends get together!
Q: Donal, before you lifted the Cup were you able to have a moment to soak it all in and appreciate it? That was your tenth season hurling for Limerick at that stage so it must have been great to look out on a sea of green? Were you able to appreciate it in the moment?
Donal O'Grady: I did, I did. That was the thing. Obviously you'd love to have three or four Munster medals and an All-Ireland or two but that Munster medal at the time, it wasn't so much the fact of now having one, it was to see the joy in the supporters who had been following us for so long. It was more relief than anything.
Looking back on that day, I'm glad I was able to stand up there and have that moment for two or three minutes and look at what was going on around me. It was just a great day for Limerick.
Q: Quite a few of the younger players who were on that panel would win an All-Ireland in 2018. Was that Munster Final a big moment in their careers in terms of showing them what it took to be successful and giving them a taster of it?
Donal O'Grady: Yeah, it would have. The lads got a taste of it and if you have a taste of it and you're young enough you really want more. We also had a younger group coming through from minor and U-21 and they all gelled well together and thank God we got 2018 out of it.
James Ryan: You also had Munster and All-Ireland U-21 success. Everyone knew that there was good Limerick teams coming. When people like Declan Hannon and Shane Dowling came along and got a bit of success in 2013, that taste of it would have made them want more of it.
We didn't have much success before 2013, but afterwards you were thinking to yourself that this is way better than losing and you want it more when you have it. That was the biggest influence winning in 2013 had on a lot of Limerick players.
I remember in 2014 Cian Lynch, Darragh O'Donovan, all of that age-group would have been playing minor. We played the Munster Final against Cork and all of those lads were there that day watching the senior team. When you're there as a minor in the Munster Final and then you watch the county seniors in the Munster Final straight after, then there's no better place you want to be.
We had a small bit of success at senior and some massive success at minor and I think one fed the other and helped build a new winning culture in Limerick in terms of showing players where they wanted to get to. It was right there in front of them.