Opportunity knocks for Limerick and David Dempsey
League final place beckons if they can avenge narrow defeat to Galway in last round proper
Limerick’s Michael Casey and David Dempsey: “The mood is hopeful that we can transform the U-21 and minor successes over the last two or three years into senior level,” said Dempsey. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
All John Kiely was saying was give youth a chance. At the start of the Allianz Hurling League, the Limerick manager asked for a little patience and perspective, that no gain is made without some pain.
Now, as painful as it was losing the opening game to Wexford, and also losing out on promotion from Divisions 1B, Limerick are the surprise package in Sunday’s league semi-finals.
They host Galway at the Gaelic Grounds also looking to gain a little revenge for the defeat in the last round proper, having taken out Division IA contenders Cork in their quarter-final.
For Limerick forward David Dempsey – still only 21, although just too old for the under-21 grade this season – being patient is all part of the process. He was part of the under-21 team that won the All-Ireland in 2015, under Kiely’s management, and feels the county is certainly progressing in the right direction.
“That was a massive win for us a couple of years ago,” says Dempsey.
“A lot of that group that played minor finals as well so there’s a good core of 22, 23-year-olds along with the experienced lads. So it is massive for us to have a winning mentality from the underage teams leading into the senior group. Hopefully, in the near future, even now, that can translate into senior victories.
“Senior is definitely a higher standard, and in terms of physicality it has increased phenomenally. Having said that, we’re not looking ahead to the future, we’re looking right now at the present and we want to achieve what we can, as soon as possible, where possible.”
Including contesting for this league title: for the last two years, the league was won by a Division 1B team – Clare last year, and Waterford in 2015 – and there’s no reason for Limerick to think differently. Especially after taking out Cork in the quarter-final.
“The fact that 1A is so competitive, maybe the main focus of the teams there is just to survive. The hunger then of the 1B teams comes through in that when you do get the more competitive teams, and you are playing quarter-finals against teams of a higher standard, we have to raise our games.
“And that’s why you see the 1B teams in the semi-finals. Even Clare and Waterford have won the last two, and the 1B teams see it as an opportunity to get more competitive games under their belts.”
Still, beating Cork last Sunday week proved the perfect response to the defeat to Galway the previous week. They had been a point up at half-time, only to lose 0-24 to 1-18.
“Definitely, and that was something we brought up amongst ourselves after that Galway game. The second half particularly was very disappointing and going down to Cork was a big chance to rectify that.
“Coming out of there with a win and laying down a statement and it was a chance to right the wrongs of what we done in terms of the big games like Wexford and Galway where we came out on the wrong sides and it was massive for us as a group to get a bit of confidence. To come out of there with a win was huge.
“It cemented in our own minds that we are on the right track and we are doing the right things. It was just massive to come out on the right side of a close game. Against Cork in the Munster League final, Galway and Wexford in the league, we haven’t been doing it so it was massive to get over the line last Sunday week.”
Galway last won the hurling title in 2010, which was also the last year they reached the final, while Limerick’s final sequence is more sparse, last winning in 1997, and last reaching the final in 2006,when they lost out to Kilkenny.
Dempsey finishes his final exams in marketing management in Limerick IT next month, then considers himself free to concentrate on hurling for the summer. Limerick’s Munster semi-final date with Clare is considered the softer side of the draw, at least avoiding Tipperary, and win or lose on Sunday, the league has left them well-primed.
“I suppose Limerick hurling people are starved of success as are all players and we want to win as much as we can. The mood is hopeful that we can transform the under-21 and minor successes over the last two or three years into senior level. There are other teams out there like Waterford and Clare as well and you can see they’re getting up to those levels and it’s up to us to try and match that.
“The Limerick people are as passionate as anyone in the country and just one big win is maybe all it takes. Within our group, we set goals and one of them is definitely becoming more consistent and more competitive. We have a tendency to win one game and then kind of fade away, especially in the league. We definitely want to become more consistent and more competitive and compete in the latter end of any competition, that’s our goal.”