WATCH: “The standard has gone up an awful lot” | Darragh O’Donovan on the SHC Championship, All-Stars and the return of spectators

Darragh O’Donovan reflected on the conclusion of his season as Doon fell in the semi-finals of the Limerick SHC.

For Darragh O’Donovan, there will be mixed emotions when reflecting on the 2021 season. Throughout the summer he was instrumental in Limerick’s march to the All-Ireland as the Shannonsiders retained their title for the first time ever.

Last week O’Donovan received an All-Star nomination, 12 months after he was the only Limerick player to start the All-Ireland final and miss out on being nominated.

22 August 2021; Darragh O’Donovan of Limerick celebrates after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Cork and Limerick in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

But Doon’s 4-20 to 2-16 loss to Kilmallock ended O’Donovan’s season with East side failing to capitalize on their early season form.

Reflecting on Doon’s loss, O’Donovan spoke about the quality of the Limerick championship which “has gone up an awful lot.”

“The Limerick Championship is the most competitive championship in the country, it’s complete physicality. You go and watch other club championships and it’s open hurling whereas in Limerick it’s a very tough championship to win, any team that come out of the Limerick championship always does well in the Munster club and maybe even onto an All-Ireland club series.”

“The standard has gone up an awful lot over the last seven or eight years because there’s a lot of work going on in colleges and in schools, lads are competing against each other at those levels as well so it’s crossing over then.

“It’s good for Limerick hurling… Even seeing Kildimo come up this year out of premier intermediate, they could easily have been in that semi-final. They’re going to be a good club, they’ll come through now because they’ve a very good under 17 team this year as well, if they get a few of those lads in to the senior team, they’ll be in the top four or five in the next couple of years.”

3 July 2021; Darragh O’Donovan of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Cork and Limerick at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

As mentioned, O’Donovan is one of 15 Limerick players in contention for All-Star awards later this year. It is the second nomination for the midfielder who missed out in 2018.

However, the recognition that All-Stars bring deserves to be given to the Limerick squad as a whole according to O’Donovan who praised the unseen efforts of those who don’t make the matchday squads.

He also spoke about the influence of the newer generation of Limerick hurler, singling out Colin Coughlan and Cathal O’Neill in particular.

“There’s fellas there, number 35 and 36, they deserve the accolades. They’re the guys that push us. Our first night in the gym, Colin Coughlan and Cathal O’Neill set the standard, two 18 year olds. And I’m sure there will be new young lads in this year that will set the standard.”

Limerick’s first All-Ireland success in 45-years was backboned by the current side with a huge response from the Treaty faithful in the maiden year of the round robin championship. But when Declan Hannon climbed the steps of the Hogan stand two years later, there were few in Croke Park due to the Covid pandemic.

This year as Limerick retained the title, the iconic venue was at half capacity with O’Donovan looking forward to having all fans back with “nothing like the Limerick supporters.”

“There’s nothing like the Limerick supporters in fairness, it’s like going to a soccer game abroad, that’s what the Limerick fans are like.”

“We’re all Limerick supporters at the end of the day, but it’s great to have them back in the stadium because they do make some noise and it brings us on an awful lot. The atmosphere there at this years final, even though it was only 50% capacity, was class.”

Darragh O’Donovan was talking at the launch of Sportsfile’s new book, “Back2Back” which chronicles Limerick’s All-Ireland successes of 2020 and 2021.

Watch the full interview with O’Donovan below.

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