3.45pm. May 24th 2009. Semple Stadium, Thurles. Beads of sweat rolling down my face. Trying to catch my breath and seeking refuge from the burning sun in the shade of the Ardan O Riain stand.
I wasn’t alone. I’d been joined by Mark O’Riordan, with the ball at the other end of the field. A seasoned championship warrior, I was waiting for some wise words to help put me at ease in only my 3rd championship start.
“Fair hot isn’t it!” He said no more only flashed a smile and jogged back to his position in the corner. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Whether it was Razor being philosophical in describing how championship was supposed to be and how you had to embrace it, or more likely Razor just being Razor, it was exactly what I needed to hear.
Limerick travel to Thurles this Saturday for a Munster Championship meeting with Tipperary, almost a decade since that last meeting in Semple Stadium.
And once again Limerick will travel as underdogs. Last time out, we had just been relegated from Division 3, a league which Tipperary had won with a victory in the final over Down.
There was hardly a pundit who had us in their win column. We were seen as a team very much on the decline. The motivation it gave us a group was huge, and the training sessions in Mary I reflected that.
Whatever about expecting a win, we expected a performance out of each other. At the very minimum we wanted to deliver that.
This time out Limerick are being given even less of a chance, with no Munster Championship win since 2010.
Listening to Iain Corbett during the week, there is an expectation within the camp of every player to deliver a performance Saturday. To “step up” to the mark.
True belief and understanding of what it means to play Championship football when pulling on the jersey. No regrets when handing it back. The league provided green shoots.
An improvement on years previous. Not through results maybe but in levels of performance. This will be on a different level.
Tipperary have been operating on a higher plain for a number of years now. The oxygen is a bit thinner up there.
The punishment for turning over ball more severe. Can this Limerick team survive in that environment?
Well this Limerick team is athletic enough to do so. I have no doubt that will help them keep touch tight without the ball and help them force turnovers.
The question will be can they delve into those reserves when possession has been gained and really test Tipperary. It’s often when you have the ‘option’ of going forward in support that it’s easiest to hide.
Fatigue makes cowards of us all. But if Limerick can use the ball intelligently and with purpose early on you’d be amazed how many more willing runners you’ll get.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan used love to say the ball is oxygen. When you have it you’re not only depriving the opposition of that oxygen but allowing yourselves to draw breath. And then you have a real chance of controlling the game.
The final part – which has been spoken about before – is converting those attacks into scoring opportunities firstly, and then into scores. Every time a flag is raised every Limerick player will get a boost of energy.
And need to feed off that. Momentum is such a cruel master. Top of the world with it; feeling lost without. Too many times during the league large periods of the game passed by without a score.
There was almost an acceptance of it. “Here we go again…same old Limerick”. You are who you are until you change who you are they say. Are enough players going to say enough is enough in Thurles on Saturday? More than fitness or football ability, it’s a frame of mind.
Only last weekend a Galway team who are considered in the top 5 teams in the country were inches away from losing out to a London team who Limerick themselves have a victory over this season.
Were Galway looking ahead? Tipperary will have one eye on Cork. It’s only natural. It might be the opportunity Limerick need. But it’s not so much about the opposition as it is about themselves.
Time to say we won’t take any more steps backwards. Every minute we are in this game is giving us a chance. And to take confidence from that.
Whatever Limerick support is there will get fully behind a team that hunts in packs and fights for every loose ball that is there to be won.
Passion mixed with precision. That’s when Limerick sporting teams are at their best.