Tuesday 21 November 2017

Video: Limerick skipper O’Mahony aims to repeat 2009 heroics

Jackie Cahill

A little bit of history repeating itself will do just fine for Gavin O'Mahony and Limerick in Thurles on Sunday.

the scene is as it was two years ago -- an All-Ireland SHC quarter-final double header at Semple Stadium, Limerick and Dublin serving as an appetiser to what is perceived as the main course when Galway tackle Waterford.

Limerick's win two years ago heralded O'Mahony's arrival as top-level inter-county hurler, but strip away the hype and he doesn't rate his man-of-the- match display as up there with his finest performances.

The modest wing-back is being too hard on himself. His direct opponent that day was Dublin's Alan McCrabbe, who finished the year as a All Star.

McCrabbe clipped over eight points, but did not score from play. Ditto O'Mahony, but when the chips were down, he contributed the final three points of the match as Limerick edged home by four.

The memories are a little hazy now, but current team captain O'Mahony recalls: "I was on McCrabbe for the first three-quarters of the game. He went in at corner-forward then, roaming in and out, mixing it up for a while.

"He went in on Damien Reale and came back out as a third midfielder.

"It was an unknown for me -- going from trying to get on the team and nail down a place for two or three years and then you're man-of-the-match.

"And I hadn't scored a sideline before that for Limerick, or since. It catapulted me up there, but I couldn't get carried away. And maybe we did because we went on to a semi-final and Tipp gave us a lesson.

"But it's what people are talking about at the moment -- the Dublin match. I wouldn't have rated it very highly. There were a couple of placed balls -- I held my own, but I didn't think I was outstanding.

"That's why I wouldn't read too much into that match. That's the way people read the review -- they look at who got the scores and scored the frees. The sideline at the end was at a crucial stage, the game was in the melting pot and that's what decided it. But I won't be too worried about frees and sidelines next Sunday -- I'll be more concerned about marking my man."

The summer of 2009 saw O'Mahony establish himself as a regular in the Limerick team. But the whipping at the hands of Tipperary saw the campaign end on a sour note with the impasse involving manager Justin McCarthy ultimately resulting in the 2010 season being a complete wipeout.

This time 12 months ago, Limerick's interest in the championship was over and O'Mahony, one of the many senior players to have opted out of the panel, was holidaying in Clonakilty with his girlfriend Becky.

A summer without O'Mahony being consumed by inter-county hurling was an attractive proposition for Becky, but as it turned out, Kilmallock's march to a first Limerick SHC crown since 1994 dragged almost as much on his time.

O'Mahony smiles: "We went down there (Clonakilty) for five or six days. I was concentrating heavily on the club at that stage. It wasn't as if I was gone completely, but it was really hard.

"Even when Limerick games were going on, I had one eye on them, still rooting for them, still a Limerick man and still wanting to see them doing well. I wasn't too far removed from it, but I still had to take a step back and say, look, it's not my business at the moment.

"There was still the huge year for the club -- we hadn't won the title in so long. The girlfriend was driven mad! She thought she was in for a right summer, thinking there would be no hurling. But I was still out training a couple of nights a week, a bit in the gym and hurling at the weekends.

"It was at a different level, a bit more low-key because right from U-14 up, I'd been training with the county. But doing gym work with the brothers freshened things up."

McCarthy's exit led to the appointment of former Cork All-Ireland winning player and manager Donal O'Grady and finally, Limerick hurling could move on with fresh optimism and a new style of play.

Short passing, with a heavy emphasis on keeping possession, might not be to everybody's liking, including 1973 All-Ireland winner Richie Bennis, but it's effective and it's taken Limerick out of Division 2 and to within 70 minutes of Croke Park again.

And O'Mahony is a fan, with method replacing madness when in possession.

The 24-year-old explained: "That's his (O'Grady's) big thing -- use your head and use possession wisely. You've gone to the hassle of winning the ball, so keep it for the next fella. We have employed other methods for 30, 40 years and it hasn't worked, but people are buying into this at the moment.

"It's not easily done. Cork had success with it and some of the players that made it work will go down as absolute legends of the game. And it looks desperate to supporters if someone loses possession in the full-back or half-back line.

"It's up the players to make sure that the hurling is 100pc sharp and that the ball goes to hand from the pass."

O'Mahony has pinpointed Conal Keaney and Ryan O'Dwyer, two players who weren't available to Dublin in 2009, as the key attacking threats on Sunday.

"The two boys are Dublin's missing link -- two players that would go into any half-forward line in the country.

"Keaney is a huge addition and you saw the loss that O'Dwyer was the last day out (Leinster final). They're just key players, huge players and from our point of view, if we can't stop their half-forward line, we won't have a chance of winning."

Irish Independent

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