By Brendan O'Brien
Ryan O’Dwyer never made it to a senior All-Ireland final — don’t mention 2013 — but he learned a thing or two about hype in his inter-county days and has some firm ideas on how Limerick could deal with all the brouhaha this next 10 or so days.
A league winner with Tipp in 2008, he claimed a Leinster title with Dublin five years later, but it was the Division One success secured under Anthony Daly in 2011 that taught him just how easy it can be for a player to get carried away on a rising tide.
The lesson learned in the two seasons that followed made a huge impression on him.
So much so that it ranks above the controversial moment in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final when James Owens showed him a second yellow card against Cork when Dublin were leading by a point with less than 20 minutes to go.
“I’ll tell you, back there in 2011, 2012, not so much ’13, I bought into that hype. If there’s one thing I could change from my inter-county career, it wouldn’t even be the red card, it’s that I bought too much into hype.
“In more recent years, from 2013 on, if someone wants a ticket before the game, they ring my sister. They don’t ring me. Even 2011/12, I’d be reading the paper, I’d be doing everything, I’d be looking for my name in the paper to see what they say about me.
“Whereas now, the last couple of years, I just haven’t looked at anything. No disrespect but, whatever they say, I’d say ‘fuck em’. It doesn’t matter. They might say he is brilliant and you’re going to be the winning of the game.
“But, at the end of the day, that’s not going to win the game: someone telling you, you are great. I remember something from Babs Keating: a clap in the back is six inches away from a kick in the arse and they come just as easy.”
Limerick have little time to get their heads around the noise that has built up in the wake of their progression to Sunday week’s All-Ireland but manager John Kiely attempted to ward off any distractions at the pass immediately after the semi-final defeat of Cork.
Don’t contact the players. he warned. Leave them be.
Everyone knows that Limerick struggled to cope with the occasion back in 2007 — a handful of players famously attended a shop opening opened up a shop late in the week leading up to that final — but O’Dwyer is mindful that they can’t be completely closeted either.
This is just Limerick’s sixth decider since their last title in 1973 and the Cashel man — whose mother hails from the Treaty county and his wife from Limerick — is reminded of his days with Tipp when Alan Quinlan and Denis Leamy addressed the senior hurling panel.
The Munster players spoke about how they had ‘bought into everything’ before Declan Kidney took over as head coach and began to micro-manage their preparations and tailor preparations so that they were primed for kick-off and no earlier.
“If you look at the Munster team during the magic era, they are going onto the pitch, they walk onto the pitch. Everything is really cool, calm and collected. Then when the match starts they are hitting like a bulldozer.
“Whereas you look at a lot of GAA teams, I’m saying it ever since that, they come out of the tunnel and they are (sprinting out). You are losing all your energy. Your muscles are tight and you are all pent up.”
It’s a moot point now but he is convinced that Dublin would have been able to handle the buzz and the madness had they beaten Cork in that 2013 semi-final and earned a shot at Daly’s native Clare in the September showdown.
The focus, he believes, would have been all on ‘Dalo’ and ‘Davy’ Fitzgerald and he has been impressed enough by Limerick’s young guns this summer to suspect that they will be comfortable with the unique demands of this year’s match-up.
“I actually don’t think it will bother them. From what I’ve seen this year, a lot of adversity has been thrown at them and it doesn’t knock them … So far this year, conceding the goal against Kilkenny, going down the six points against Cork, none of that has affected them.
“So I don’t think an All-Ireland final will affect them.”