Sunday 18 March 2018

Dempsey hoping to recreate 'best day of my life'

Na Piarsiagh’s David Dempsey. Photo: Sportsfile
Na Piarsiagh’s David Dempsey. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Six years have passed since David Dempsey sat in Parnell Park as a spectator when Na Piarsaigh were stunned by Loughgiel Shamrocks in the AIB All-Ireland club SHC semi-final but it's a painful experience he won't easily forget.

Dempsey recalls the Limerick city club being "absolutely blown away" by the passion of the Antrim side - on the pitch and in the stands - and the free-scoring forward is expecting something similar from Derry's Slaughtneil in Saturday's last-four clash.

Na Piarsaigh return to Parnell Park but unlike 2012, they are old hands at this stage having claimed All-Ireland honours two years ago and maintained a remarkable 100pc provincial record - with four titles in six years - when toppling Ballygunner in November.

The wins are rarely what's remembered, however, and Dempsey recalls the "huge disappointment" that followed their maiden All-Ireland win as they fell to Kilmallock and Doon and were denied a place in the knock-out stages of the Limerick SHC.

"We let ourselves down big time. It's something you want to rectify big time this year, we'd a huge hunger and ambition just to get out of the group and take it game by game, thankfully we've got to this stage with our ability," he said.

A big factor has been the commitment of manager Shane O'Neill - who was in the running for the Limerick senior job now held by John Kiely and had other inter-county offers - and his backroom team to stay on for another year as Dempsey felt it could have "ended on a sour note".

"If they left after that it would have maybe ended on a sour note. There would have been... the All-Ireland would have went under the radar because of what happened after. Thankfully they stayed on this year and the players have given full co-operation," the 22-year-old said.

"We've all fully bought into it because we know the talent we have and we know that if we give 100pc any day that we're going to be there in the latter stages of the Limerick senior championship and once we do that, it's everyone for themselves."

Nearly three months have passed since their Munster triumph with no collective sessions in December as they worked in "mini pods of seven or eight" before a New Year's Day return which felt "like a new campaign".

Much has been said about a calendar-year club programme but the marketing manager can see both sides of the coin.

"It's tough. There's loads of pros and cons to it. Personally, (it's) the challenge of trying to get to Paddy's Day like," Dempsey said.

"I've been there once and it was the best day of my life probably so it's a day I dream of getting there again. But you can see why the authorities want to (run it in a calendar year) when you see the way things are going at inter-county level and the club, the fixtures is a mess."

Dempsey, who hit 1-1 in his Limerick championship debut against Clare last summer, is delighted with the Treaty's positive start to 2018 but Slaughtneil is the only thought occupying the U-21 All-Ireland winner's mind for now.

With All-Star forward Shane Dowling "re-energising the whole squad" after returning from a 14-week knee injury lay-off, the Na Piarsaigh juggernaut is unlikely to be derailed at this juncture with the Tommy Moore Cup in sight.

Irish Independent

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