Limerick surprise themselves as the past melts into the future
Apparently handicapped by their league status, the county’s revival under John Allen has already ensured a major breakthrough
“I thought of the league final just as Donal was lifting the cup. It was worlds apart in terms of my feeling at that moment. We were so hurt after that game – we were very wounded. We felt that we could have beaten Dublin and it was a big stage where we needed to perform but we came up short. It was gut-wrenching, it really was.”
Hickey was in the advance guard of the new generation of Limerick players, who emerged in the past couple of years. Limerick defeated Sunday’s provincial opponents Cork in the 2011 Munster under-21 final, which went to extra time, and 11 of the players on view last weekend took part.
Another significant milestone was Ardscoil Rís becoming the first Limerick school in 17 years to win Munster’s Harty Cup. According to Hickey the steady successes at these levels played their part.
“No question. I felt that. Winning is a habit. You’ve to develop that and it showed with the work that was done underage. We’ve done that and I’d really like to credit the Limerick County Board and the work they do at underage.
“You only reap the rewards of the work you put in: the Harty programmes, the minor programmes, our minors today. It’s great to see tangible results from it.”
John Allen, who took his county Cork to back-to-back Munsters in 2005-06 and an All-Ireland in the first year, is careful not to appear astonished at his team’s feat. Was he however surprised?
“If you’d asked me that halfway through last year I would have said yes, absolutely as I felt there was a huge gulf between where we are now and what we were at then.
“But I think once we played Tipperary [in last year’s provincial semi-final] and given that we played so well for so long, we knew then that we weren’t too far off the level of Tipp and Kilkenny.
“And I think certainly this year, I’ve said this before: we played Kilkenny a few weeks before the Tipp game. We played very well that game and I think that night a bulb was lit inside a few players; that this team knew it was good enough to compete, had an impetus and I think we’ve proved that since.”