As Limerick attempt to make history, the 2010 championship team is a footnote
After winter’s discord tore the county apart, they still had to cobble together a panel for the summer
Limerick warm up ahead of their Munster semi-final senior hurling championship game against Cork in Pairc Uí Chaoimh in June 2010. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
They are the team of asterisks, the exceptions to the rule. The panel that lined out for Limerick in the 2010 championship were hurlers but they weren’t all intercounty hurlers. They were what was left after the sticks of dynamite exploded over the previous winter and blew the relationship between huge chunks of the 2009 panel and the manager Justin McCarthy apart. They were there and then they were gone, rarely to be spoken of again. Atlantis in green shirts.
They didn’t all disappear. Four of them will line out for Limerick tomorrow, each of them having hammered out tidy intercounty careers for themselves in the years since. Nicky Quaid, Paul Browne, David Breen and Graeme Mulcahy have all thrown into the pot at different stages this summer, Quaid with a couple of smart saves against Tipperary in particular, Breen and Browne indefatigable around the centre of the field and Mulcahy always sniping at corner-forward. A fifth, corner-back Shane O’Neill, has been in and around the panel without managing to quite break the starting line-up.
But for the remaining 19 players who appeared in that summer’s championship, 2010 was more or less the beginning and the end all wrapped up in one. There were a few exceptions – Thomas O’Brien from Patrickswell hung in and saw game-time under both Donal O’Grady and John Allen before failing to make the panel this year and Bruree’s James O’Brien had been in and out of the team for seven seasons before finishing up that summer. But for the broad brush of that squad 2010 was their one taste of the big show.
Liam Garvey was a selector on that team, alongside Brian Ryan whose county minors will ensure a hefty portion of the Limerick crowd are in their seats from early on tomorrow. Garvey himself is over the UL Fitzgibbon Cup team these days but back then the pair of them were elbow-deep in the make-do-and-mend operation that came with the fallout from the winter’s discontent.
While the pot of rancour bubbled away outside, they had to get on with the business of putting a team together. At a certain point, it ceased to matter what the rights and wrongs had been – a Limerick team had to be readied for the championship. Their biggest problem starting off wasn’t necessarily a lack of skills, more that these were young bodies that hadn’t been through sustained seasons of intercounty conditioning. You can coach and scheme your way around the first problem but the second takes time. Fitness isn’t an exam subject you can cram for.
“It was difficult,” says Garvey. “Every team needs to be able to call upon the players that are available. Counties don’t have huge amounts of players at the top level so what we were trying to do was quite difficult.
“It was a matter of trying to develop players and get them used to playing 70-minute matches. The bulk of these players were normally used to playing 60-minute matches. So in fairness to them, it would always take a year or two to build guys up to the point where they could play matches of that intensity for that long.”
They cobbled together a squad made up of some good club hurlers, some promising under-21s and a few outsiders. Tadhg Flynn was a Kerryman teaching in Limerick and playing his club hurling as a goalkeeper with Ahane. He had played in the Munster Championship for Kerry back in 2004.