LISTEN: Damien Fitzgibbon says St Senans are ready to give it their “best shot” against an Ghaeltacht on Sunday.
To say St Senan’s have had a good year would somewhat of an understatement. Seven wins from seven saw them claim a Limerick Intermediate Championship crown that had eluded them in recent years.
That was followed up by Munster wins over a Kiladangan and Kilmihil to make the final. In both games to date the Limerick were the outsiders and that will be the same again on Sunday as the face a Kerry side with a serious sprinkling of star quality.
Speaking to Sporting Limerick says that his team have carried over the momentum gained in their county campaign into the Munster Championship.
“It has been a great run. We were disappointed from last year, getting to the (county) final and losing out to Adare so the target this year was to go one better and try and win that elusive county title.
“Every game we played was hard earned and I think that was reflected in the results. There was very little in the difference in most games. As the year went on, we grew in confidence and we peaked at the right time.”
Indeed St Senan’s have history and some would say unfinished business having reached the final in the maiden running of the competition back in 2003 only to endure a heavy loss to Cork’s Illen Rovers.
However it is Kerry teams that have dominated the honour roll since the competition began, winning ten titles with Cork claiming four. Limerick sides have only appeared twice in a final with Pallasgreen losing the 2005 final to Carbery Rangers.
Only twice in the past has a team from Shannonside qualified for the Munster final, with St Senans going under to Ilen Rovers in 2003 and Pallasgreen losing out to Carbery Rangers in 2005.
In Austin Stack Park Tralee on Sunday at 2pm, St Senans will be hoping to extend their participation beyond Munster and into an All Ireland semi final next Spring. Considering the season began back in April, Fitzgibbon says his back room staff have got the balance right when it comes to their preparations.
“Last year guided us as well. It is a long year and you are faced with injuries and other commitments that guys have in everyday life. I think we just got the balance right.
“There are different age groups within the team as well and we got to allow for that. To be fair to our coach Shane he has done a phenomenal job there in terms of fine tuning that and having the guys ready when it comes to the crunch.”
Fitzgibbon readily admits that the county championship was the priority but since achieving that goal, the pressure was off and they quickly refocused for tilt at Munster glory.
“Considering we had been knocking on the door for a number of years, as we got to the (county) final there was pressure on us but it is all about how you cope with that pressure and how you handle it.
“There is no doubt about it, that was the target for the year but now that we got that county title, we sat down and we regrouped and the target somewhat changed. We said let’s have a run at this Munster campaign.”
So what then of their opponents? An Ghaeltacht is a side steeped in Kerry football and history and with a backroom staff containing Marc O’Sé and Darragh O’Cinnéide also involved, there is no lack of star quality or All Ireland winning experience.
Players like Daragh O’Sé, Eanna O’Connor, Tomás Mac an tSaoir and Brian Ó’Beaglaoich will provide St Senan’s with the toughest of tests and will also be looking to catch the eye of Eamonn Fitzmaurice as he looks to shape his Kerry side heading into next year.
Fitzgibbon has had a chance to take a look at Sunday’s opponents and admits that a mammoth challenge lies ahead.
“We had had a look at them and they are a serious side, you only need to look at the names on their panel and you’ll see a lot of household names there. Players who have represented Kerry at various levels from minor all the way up to senior.
“They are a serious outfit, that goes without saying and there is huge tradition there. But for us, we are going to focus very much on ourselves and have our homework done as best we can. We can only focus on ourselves and what we can bring to the table. That will be the approach come Sunday.”
So, while there are solid grounds to believe there is a significant gulf in standards between intermediate football in Kerry and Limerick, An Ghaeltacht would not want to take the St Senan’s challenge lightly.
Fitzgibbon believes that come 2pm on Sunday, his side will be giving it their absolute all to claim a first Munster intermediate football crown for a Limerick club.
“When we do perform and perform to the best of our ability, we really can trouble the best of teams. For us the focus is very much performing to the absolute best of our ability and trying to do that for the full 60 minutes.
“We gotta have the belief that we can go and put in a performance and have the courage and the conviction to take it on. We want to go out there, give it our best shot and have no regrets.”