Tuesday 21 January 2020

Geary believes current Treaty crop can rock the Rebels

Geary: "Championship matches were knockout back then and they were hard won and we enjoyed it the few we got." Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Former Limerick hurling captain Brian Geary says this current squad are refusing to be held back by their recent barren history and are hell-bent on finding a performance that will deliver a first All-Ireland final in 11 years.

Geary has worked as a selector alongside John Kiely since 2016, but he played as a centre-back on one of the last Limerick teams to beat Cork in the championship, in 2001. Since then Limerick have only beaten Cork once in seven championship meetings - their 2013 Munster final win.

The Monaleen club man was a rock in that Limerick side and was a leading light in his 12-year inter-county career, but he has memories of another 'Rock' from that clash.

With Cork six points behind in that Munster quarter-final, Rebel full-back Diarmuid 'The Rock' O'Sullivan broke out of defence, delivered a massive shoulder and fired over a point from inside his own '45' to kick-start a comeback. Geary can still feel the force of the impact.

"I saw the ball sailing over my head alright! I can remember Jack Foley lifting himself up off the ground. He was a pure beast of a man and poor Jack was in the wrong place at the wrong time," says Geary (right).

"Barry Foley put over a sideline cut (to win it). Championship matches were knockout back then and they were hard won and we enjoyed it the few we got.

"It would (be one of the best wins). Looking at my own career, there wasn't many sweet victories like that.

"It was a long time ago, but you could say that about a lot of counties. Going back to Kilkenny, we know the time frame since we beat them last.

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"I know this group don't look back or look at records. If you asked some of the younger lads they mightn't be sure when we played a senior match last in Croke Park. It's very much performance-focused."

The determination in the group has grown all season it seems. A league win over All-Ireland champions Galway in Pearse Stadium seemed like a coming-of-age result for Limerick as it earned them promotion to the top flight, but it was in the Munster Championship that they showed they could transfer that spring form into summer hurling.

Doubts were still there about the steeliness of this team, but their win over Kilkenny in the quarter-final was signed off with a cool display in the closing minutes as Brian Cody's side charged back into the game.

"They showed great character, there's no doubting that. It's very much onwards and upwards and what we can do, not what the teams did before us and what the records are," says Geary.

"Their dedication is second to none. If they're asked to do something they'll do it. They have been pushed very hard in training. These lads have success in Colleges and U-21s and they're used to it, but they want to be make their mark on the senior set-up.

"When lads are willing to work that hard, it makes things easier. You're only as good as your last game, the lads know that and an All-Ireland semi-final is there to be won."

Having only retired from the game in 2012, Geary is now looking after some players that he hurled with. Nickey Quaid, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon, Paul Browne, Shane Dowling and Graeme Mulcahy were all in that 2008 team and are key leaders in the current squad, and Geary is impressed by their character.

"The boys have been excellent. The panel to a member really have been pulling their weight. There are 36 lads there. They all know they can't all tog out on the day of a match, so that's the hardest part.

"It's the 10 lads, it's their impression on training and trying to get into the 26 that's been immense. That's driving everyone forward and they've been led by those so-called elder statesmen."

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