U-21 'underdogs' Limerick to make final leap - Byrnes
Diarmuid Byrnes has hardly blinked and his underage career is nearly over.
This is the Limerick captain's third year with the Treaty U-21s. Until this year, he had played just two games. And now he's getting ready for an All-Ireland final with Wexford in Semple Stadium tomorrow night.
"We had Tipperary in the first round here in Thurles in 2013 and then we had Clare in the Gaelic Grounds last year. We were beaten in both," Byrnes says, recalling the last two U-21 campaigns.
In that light, they have surprised a few and possibly even themselves by their progress to this point.
But with a panel backboned by two Munster minor-winning teams, they have found their feet as they got over each hurdle. And now they go into this final as clear favourites.
"Every match we have played we have been underdogs," explained Byrnes.
"I know what the bookies are saying about Saturday, but Wexford would have been outright favourites from earlier in the year.
"They have come off the back of three Leinster titles. We were underdogs against Tipperary and even for the Munster final we were underdogs.
"And we came up here to Thurles as underdogs for the semi-final against Galway. You would expect to be with the names that are out there - Bobby Duggan and Shane O'Donnell on the Clare side, Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion on the Galway side. We dealt with them all you know.
"We didn't really focus on winning a title. We focused on the Tipperary game which was our first game. We didn't look beyond it and we haven't since.
"We beat Tipperary and then our next focus was Clare in the Munster final. It was the right mentality to have.
"If you are thinking ahead, you will lose track of yourself and you won't know where you are. Management would have told us one training session at a time, one match at a time."
Byrnes is a Patrickswell man. For the last few weeks, he's seen a handful of members of the various Limerick panels that secured three All-Ireland U-21 titles in a row from 2000-02. There have been quiet words here and there. These weeks, you'll take all the wisdom you can get.
"I was eight. I don't remember (the 2002 win). There were three lads from Patrickswell on the teams - Paul O'Reilly, Paul O'Grady and Eoin Foley.
"I have spoken to them to get some advice. You'll take on board any advice you can get.
"They'd be talking about games they played in, who they played and telling you to keep it cool, don't get too hyped up and don't get too caught up in the whole occasion.
"You can lose track of yourself. It is grand to have them there. They have been there, done that."
Limerick have proven a tough nut to crack this year as several more fancied teams have found out to their cost.
In Cian Lynch, they boast one of the summer's brightest young prospects. Tom Morrissey is another who was involved in the senior set-up, while eight more of the U-21 side played in the county's intermediate team that reached the Munster final.
"The confidence is there, we have a small bit of bit of momentum too," Byrnes says.
"You have to have a small bit of confidence, but you wouldn't be cocky. Any team we played so far, we have had the utmost respect for them.
"We never underestimated any of them. It will be the same come Saturday. We won't underestimate them because they have excellent forwards and are coming in off three in a row in Leinster."