Friday 23 February 2018

Don't rush Limerick U-21 stars into senior side, warns O'Grady

O’Grady: Inter-county retirement. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
O’Grady: Inter-county retirement. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Jackie Cahill

Retires Limerick star Donal O'Grady has warned against pitching too many members of the county's 2015 All-Ireland U-21 winning squad into the senior camp too soon.

O'Grady (35) confirmed that he's pulled the curtain down on an 11-year career.

The Granagh-Ballingarry clubman met with Limerick manager TJ Ryan recently and was told he would no longer be an automatic choice.

O'Grady said: "TJ was very good, I'd have great time for him. He's a very good manager and we had a good chat.

"He did say there was a role for me but it's very hard to be on the team for the last ten years and not be an automatic starter.

"Based on my age, I mightn't be able to see out the 70 minutes and I'd hate to play in a game in the melting pot and having to come off.

"We had a good chat, we shook hands and we're good friends. He said we'll keep in touch and he might ring me to chat about a match or how this or that fella might be going."

O'Grady, who made his senior debut in 2004, admits that he first harboured thoughts about retirement following last year's qualifier defeat against Dublin, having been hampered by injuries in recent years.

He explained: "I picked up a bad ankle injury against Dublin in the League. It took me a long time to get over that, my form wasn't great and it's a hard thing to do, as captain, when things are not going right, to not play a part and be injured.

"I didn't base my retirement on me personally having a bad year. My wife and family would still want me to play and I don't see the shop as a barrier in that, but I have to be selfish and think of myself. And it's the best thing for me to call it a day."

O'Grady pinpoints a devastating All-Ireland semi-final defeat against Tipp in 2009, when the Treaty men lost by 6-19 to 2-7, as the low point of his career.

He said: "For under-performance, Tipp in '09 would have been a real bad one. I don't have too many regrets but I wish I could change that day.

"It wasn't the fact that Tipp beat us but they humiliated us and the worst feeling I've ever felt was leaving Heuston Station. We had to walk past a full platform of supporters to get into the carriage and that would have been the lowest of the low.

"The highs would be winning the Munster final in 2013. I was captain and winning it in Limerick was an extra touch, a situation I didn't think I'd ever see myself involved in.

"It was the least the supporters deserved after a topsy turvy few years. To see the joy on their faces pleased me more than the Munster medal."

O'Grady believes that Limerick's long wait for a first All-Ireland senior title since 1973 will eventually end, but he's preaching caution about the use of the county's up-and-coming stars.

"It will happen if we keep on doing the right things," he insisted.

"We were playing catch up as far as standards you needed to be at to be a top intercounty team but we've got to the stage where we're on a level playing field as far as preparation and understanding what it takes to win.

"We're in the right place and there's a nice squad there. I wouldn't be rushing the U-21s in. It's a big step up. It doesn't matter what county you play for, the level of expectation involved with the flagship team in the county carries its own weight of expectation on and off the field."

Irish Independent

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