Byrnes and Limerick in the business of creating more hurling history
Powerful defender aiming to help county claim a first league final success since 1997
Diarmuid Byrnes in action against Dublin’s John Hetherton during the league semi-final. “We want to win things and we have an opportunity now. Just go out and win everything.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Diarmuid Byrnes can’t recall the last time Limerick won a hurling league title and it’s hardly surprising. It was 1997, he was three years old, and to confuse matters further, that final was played in October.
After playing a key defensive role in ending Limerick’s 45-year wait for an All-Ireland title last August, Byrnes proved equally central in getting them into Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League final at Croke Park against Waterford. It’s the county’s first final appearance since 2006, when they lost to Kilkenny.
That was long before his time too, although Byrnes was there last year when Limerick fell just short of a league final, losing out to Tipperary in extra-time; they also lost the 2017 semi-final to Galway.
“I suppose after the last couple of years, after making the semi-final stage, we were in a position again to reach a final, and took our opportunity while we were there,” said Byrnes, after scoring 0-5, including four frees, from wing back in Sunday’s semi-final win over Dublin at Nowlan Park.
“Back in 1997, I was three. Maybe Peter Casey or Séamus Flanagan might been in the cot I’d say. You have to go back a long way now. None of the lads who are on the panel now would be next to or near that match. So, we are going to go up to Croke Park and just enjoy it. That’s what we are looking at, we want to win things and we have an opportunity now. Just go out and win everything.”
The league so far has proved most enjoyable for Limerick, especially on the back of that All-Ireland triumph and and any sense of a hangover has long since lifted.
“Ah sure look, all those memories of 2018 are all in the past now. We can have very bad ones next Sunday if we are looking back on them. We will focus on next Sunday, and focus on ourselves and focus on the game.”
“Ah you have to. As you know yourself, if you are around the county, it’s still a bit mad. But it’s still great, the buzz is still there a small bit, understandably so. Players are mature enough now to stay away from it, mind themselves and stay level-headed, which we have.
“But I think our performances are showing there that we are still hungry. You want to be winning matches. You want to be winning silverware. There is no point saying otherwise. We are going out training a couple of nights as well. We spend about 30/35 hours with each other. “That’s not just to see each other. It’s a socialising thing too. We love each other, but we want to win things . . ..”
Dublin didn’t roll out of the way of the All-Ireland champions on Sunday, despite being behind 1-18 to 0-12 heading into the last quarter: it finished 1-19 to 1-16.
“It was tough. They brought massive intensity in the first half, we knew we had to match it in the second half and we did. It was a massive gap but fair dues to Dublin they came back at us.
“It meant we did have it hard the last 10 minutes and it’s something we have to go back and look at when we go back training this week. But we will continue to worry about ourselves. If there is a dip in performance we will address it and we will drive it on again.”