Keeping it real in the last line
Barry Hennessy's turn in goal for Limerick may open new ground for the Quaid dynasty
Today may be a baptism of fire for Kilmallock's Barry Hennessy, who makes his championship debut in the Limerick goal, but if the move works well it could reshape the side over the coming months.
On Thursday night, Hennessy edged Aaron Murphy, a star performer for LIT and Davy Fitzgerald in recent seasons, for the number one shirt after regular netminder Nickie Quaid was ruled out following surgery on a collarbone injury. It was a big call for the manager to make.
"Barry is under pressure today making his debut in circumstances like this; playing a local derby in the Munster Championship in Thurles is not easy," says Joe Quaid, who is Nickie's second cousin. "But he is a good goalie - as is Aaron Murphy - and if he does well this afternoon it might just change things a little.
"I firmly believe that Nickie is the best centre-back in Limerick and he's definitely good enough to play there in the championship. I think we need more out the field too and he would provide that. He plays outfield for his club Effin anyway so it must be hard for him to jump back and forth into goals with the county team. If Barry does well against Clare, like Tyrone's Mickey O'Neill last weekend, it might just free Nickie to play out the field. I don't know how he would feel about that, but he's definitely good enough and we need him there too."
Hennessy is the man in possession now and he can expect to be targeted today. The expectation is that Shane O'Donnell will be left inside at full-forward with the rest of the Clare attack pulling out the field to give the goal-poaching O'Donnell more space.
But Joe Quaid says the Kilmallock goalkeeper will have learned an awful lot from his club's recent campaign.
"Goalkeeping is the best job in the world when things are going right but you are the worst in world when things go wrong. I found myself that, in retirement, I got better with every passing season in the public's eyes - because I wasn't around to make any mistakes in the glare of the media or the supporters.
"Barry will have to be strong enough to deal with all that because I don't know when Nickie will be back, although he's training again after a dislocated collarbone, an injury that needed serious attention as it stemmed from under his sternum. The problem was close to the bone and there was a danger of ripping an artery so a cardiologist had to be alongside the surgeon in case he was needed."
Quaid admits his cousin missing today's game is a disappointment. The family's ties to Limerick hurling run deep. Joe's father, Jim, was a key player on the Limerick team which beat London in the 1954 junior All-Ireland final. His uncle, Jack Quaid, father of the late Tommy, was also a member of that side.
"Jim and Joe are twins and they're getting more alike as they grow older," Joe says. "They won Munster senior hurling medals in 1955, they were part of a team known as Mackey's greyhounds, but I suppose the main thing for the family was that for a set of twins they are responsible for themselves, their sons and grandsons playing for Limerick in every decade since the 1950s. And of course the highlight of that was Tommy starring in the goals like he did."
Tommy was the goalkeeper on the Limerick team from 1976 until 1993 until Joe replaced him but Joe says the goalkeeping tradition, although rich now, emerged from nowhere.
"They put Tommy in goals for Feohanagh at 14 but there was no goalkeeping tradition in the family at all. Tommy's brother John came along and they put him into goals and moved Tommy outfield. Then I arrived at 14 and they put me in goal and moved John out the field.
"When I was injured or missing, Tommy's other brother, Pat, would play between the posts. Tommy started off the goalkeeping tradition but it has become almost ridiculous now. My own two young lads Killian and Liam were asked to play in goal for their under 10 team but I asked their manager had they ever seen the lads play in that position. He hadn't. I asked if he had a different surname would they be asked. They wouldn't."
Nickie's brother Jack also played in goals with the county at minor and under 16 level and another brother, Tommy, held the number one shirt for the Limerick intermediates.
Not long ago, Joe remembers being over a Limerick under 16 development squad. They were playing the county under 17s and five minutes into the match the opposition goalie had brought off two astonishing saves.
One of the selectors enquired from Joe who he was.
"Jack Quaid," came the reply.
"Ah for fuck sake, how many more of ye are there?" the selector replied.
Joe remembers meeting Tommy senior one day at his house. He was pucking around with Pat and they included Joe in the shoot-out.
"I was ducking at shots when they came my way but Tommy told me to keep my eye on the ball, anticipate where it was going and save it rather than dodge it.
"And I started doing that and became good at it. That's how I ended up in goal. It was one bit of advice that stuck. Tommy was a sound man - for years he was also the best forward Limerick had."
In fact, Tommy was top scorer in the 1985 NHL even though the selectors put him back into goals for the semi-final. And in the 1988 intermediate county final against Ardagh he scored 4-11 out of 4-14.
"That's why I would like to see Nickie out the field for a while. He is too good to be pigeon-holed. His father would have been an All Star out the field too. As a hurler, he always looked so assured. I wouldn't lace the man's boots," says Joe, who went on to win two Munster titles and two All Stars himself.
Tommy passed away too early, aged just 42. He died on the day of the All-Ireland intermediate final. Limerick had qualified to play a Kilkenny team featuring one H Shefflin and he was a selector. For much of the game Kilkenny were well in control until the Limerick side powered back from nowhere to win.
"We were in the stand in Thurles when word came through that Tommy had passed," Joe recalls. "But it was like he had to see Limerick launch a comeback in that game before he left. He went way too young. He had a 10-foot fall and that was it. He was still as fit as a flea he had only recently scored 2-10 for Effin in a junior match. We all got a shock; he was a big, strong man with big shoulders on him and it just didn't seem right. He never drank, never smoked. Hurling was his life."
They reckon that up to 25,000 people passed through the house and attended the funeral and they also say that Tommy's wife Breda asked every single person who they were and what connection they had with Tommy.
Joe admits that despite wanting to see him achieve his maximum potential out the field, the entire family got a lift when Nickie took on the mantle of being the Limerick goalkeeper.
"Ah stop, all it's doing is putting pressure on my two young lads to take over when he steps down," he laughs. "But seriously you would see massive traits between Nickie and Tommy; they both have an unreal eye for the ball and they are both great out the field. He's a great lad too and Breda deserves great credit for the superb job she did in bringing those lads up. She drove them everywhere, to every match."
As for Barry Hennessy being dropped into the cauldron today, Joe says the Kilmallock man has to focus on the basics, the bread-and-butter duties.
Quaid also says Hennessy's team-mates have a huge supporting role to play and feels they will need to keep things tight in front of the newcomer.
"They can't fall into the trap of following Davy Fitzgerald's game plan, whatever that may be. Clare will go for goal early so it's a big day for Barry. But things happen for a reason. It's a huge opportunity."
Over the years the Quaids have almost had sole ownership of Limerick's number one shirt, but for Hennessy it's all about the here and now.
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