Saturday 24 February 2018

Ageless Treaty star Foley proof that the 'Well never runs dry

Patrickswell’s Barry Foley has stood the test of time. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Patrickswell’s Barry Foley has stood the test of time. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Twenty years ago a skinny teenager announced his arrival on the hurling stage with two huge points off the bench as Limerick dethroned All-Ireland champions Clare in an epic Munster semi-final clash at the Gaelic Grounds.

Barely out of minor, Barry Foley's impressive form with Patrickswell the previous year catapulted him into Treaty calculations and before he knew it, he was getting the nod from manager Tom Ryan.

It all happened in a flash. Togging out alongside idols and club-mates Ciarán Carey and Gary Kirby wasn't enough for Foley, however, and soon he was playing and contributing handsomely in one of the Treaty's greatest days.

"I suppose I was going to be the hero until Ciarán stepped up at the end. It was surreal - I was sitting there looking in at it, I was togged out but really I was a supporter, I wasn't expecting to be brought on at all. Nobody had said anything to me," the former Limerick skipper says.

"It was a great feeling but I can't take from Ciarán, that point was unbelievable. I was young and probably didn't appreciate it as much as the older lads, the scenes after, it was just crazy."

After shooting four points from play against Wexford in September's decider, his first exposure to county hurling almost yielded Liam MacCarthy and his expectations for the future were high, but Limerick failed to scale anything like those heights again.

"You get blindsided, it's related to success. My first year playing inter-county hurling we get to an All-Ireland final and you think that'll become the norm but it doesn't work out like that. If anything, things got much harder from then on," he says.

When his days in green and white ended in 2008 with just one more final appearance, the easy option would have been to sail away into the sunset and soon call time with the 'Well.

Read more: Day of destiny for old rivals as Duignan fights on two fronts

What more was there to prove with six medals already under his belt, his first won when an unused substitute aged 16 in 1993 as "a rake of young lads" were parachuted into the senior squad?

His last John Daly Cup was 13 years ago and despite looking like his days were numbered, Carey coaxed him back last season where he spearheaded their final defeat to subsequent All-Ireland champions Na Piarsaigh from an unfamiliar No 3 berth.

Now using all his guile in the open fields in the middle of the park this year, the 39-year-old is delighted to have passed the test of time and hung around long enough to see another potentially golden crop rise all the way up through the ranks to book another 'parish final' with neighbours Ballybrown.

"It's mad, it's hard to believe. We played Ballybrown in the '95 county final, 21 years ago. There's fellas playing with us now that weren't even born then. It's mad the way things work out, you couldn't envisage it but I'm still there," he smiles.

"It re-energises you and gives you that extra bit of motivation. We have a lot of young guys like Diarmaid Byrnes, Cian Lynch, the three O'Briens and Mark Carmody, it's great to be up training with these boys.

"It's a different generation. . . they're starting out and it brings a great freshness to everything. And the slagging about my age is non-stop, I just can't escape it."

Playing under current boss Kirby, his childhood hero who "won the hard ball" and "threw it out" for Foley to get "handy points", is a dream come true as Patrickswell look to atone for last year's heartbreak in tomorrow's decider.

There's "great craic in the pubs" but Foley, a process operator at Aughinish Alumina, is only concerned with doing whatever it takes to get over the line. At this stage of his career it would be the crowning achievement.

"It'd mean everything. When you get older you appreciate it more, you know what it takes, you know they don't come easy. The older you get, the effort you put in changes, you're willing to make those sacrifices," he explains.

"That extra bit of training. . . because you know it doesn't come around every year, you know how hard it is to win one and that you won't get too many more opportunities at it."

It was often said that a ball couldn't be pucked in Patrickswell without landing in the lap of a Bennis, Foley or Carey, and Barry will be back in the Gaelic Grounds tomorrow hoping to make more headlines.

As for the future and some day togging out with his son Cian (15)? "Never say never."

Irish Independent

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