O’Shaughnessy: Limerick can take ‘moral victory’ over Kilkenny
Former Limerick star among those featured in the latest TG4 series of Laochra Gael
Former Limerick hurler Andrew O’Shaughnessy in attendance at the Laochra Gael launch at the Dean Hotel in Dublin. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
To be talking seriously about hurling before Valentine's Day always feels thoroughly indecent but some subjects are unavoidable.
Limerick’s breakneck start to their first year as All-Ireland champions in almost half a century would be eye-catching regardless of who they’re down to play in the league this weekend. The fact that they’re heading to Nowlan Park carries an instant frisson, no point pretending otherwise.
“The year they lost to Kilkenny in Nowlan Park, I thought they hurled particularly well but just lacked a little bit of awareness of when a score was needed or how to do the right thing. They were that bit raw. Last year then, especially after Richie Hogan’s goal, the response was to go straight down the field, Tom Morrissey getting that point.
“Even the awareness of the half-forward line to catch a ball, because in previous years Limerick haven’t been particularly good in winning their own ball but the half-forward line last year were. This weekend will be an important game, of course it will. But they have the comfort of winning their first two matches so that gives them a bit of comfort and at the same time there is no relegation from Division 1A.
“It’s unusual for Kilkenny because they are normally the All-Ireland champions. I imagine every game [Brian] Cody goes out he wants to set down some sort of marker. That’s why he has been around for so many years, because he drives his players all the time.
“It will be an interesting game, I imagine it will be a very physical game. The result shouldn’t influence on later on in the championship, but it might more be a moral victory for either team.”
O’Shaughnessy was speaking at the launch of the latest series of Laochra Gael, beginning on TG4 next Wednesday night. The first episode of what is the 17th series of the popular biographical documentary show will feature Irish Times hurling columnist Jackie Tyrrell, to be followed by (in order) Séamus Darby, Rena Buckley, Kieran Duff, O’Shaughnessy and Colm Cooper.
Limerick’s year of glory came too late for O’Shaughnessy, who was one of the most talked-about young hurlers in the country in his late teens before being diagnosed with MS in his mid-20s. He admits he is slightly surprised by how well John Kiely’s team have started the year, given that they are a panel of first-time All-Ireland winners when all comes to all.
“They have been away on numerous holidays so they shouldn’t be that much ahead,” O’Shaughnessy says. “Especially for the Tipp match when Liam Sheedy came out and said they were that bit more ahead of Tipperary fitness-wise. They have developed a steel to their hurling, which is good to see.
“Either they are getting smaller jerseys or they are physically-imposing men but first and foremost they are hurling. The way the game has gone it’s all about blocking and tackling and in previous years they mightn’t have been that aware of it, a bit too naive and honest maybe, but now they are more aware of the need to stop the runner.”
At the heart of everything is Kiely, gently corralling his charges towards dealing with their success in the right way. The summer is far off in the distance and nothing can be guessed at with any confidence on the middle of February. But so far, Limerick have done everything the right way.
“He probably doesn’t want to hear it but a lot of it is down to John Kiely and the way he manages his players,” O’Shaughnessy says. “After every game, no matter what player spoke they stuck to the same message. They said it in different ways but it was co-ordinated. They’re extremely grounded.
“It’s great to see the Liam MacCarthy Cup going around and it hasn’t gone into a pub, especially coming from Limerick and all the bad press we got in previous years whether right or wrong about pubs and alcohol. That’s a fantastic thing. It’s nice to know they respect the cup that much, that while they are celebrating they don’t bring the cup into a pub because it doesn’t need to be in a pub. Rightly or wrongly, that’s what kids see.
“I think they do realise it – we didn’t – that no matter what you do you’re influencing the next generation. Because you’re inside your own bubble you say, ‘Right, I’m the most important person at the moment, sure I’ll be here forever’, but you have to think about the next generation.
“The things the team have done have influenced a whole new generation and hopefully we’ll see the fruits of that in the years to come.”