Kieran Bermingham dismisses any notion that Na Piarsaigh focused on the All-Ireland club final from a long way out. The selector stresses that their St Patrick’s Day clash with Cuala is just the last step in a long journey.
“The first aim was to get out of the group (in Limerick), and we have trusted each other, every time you play or represent the group, to give it your best shot.
“We never took any game or opposition for granted. We really enjoy playing together and we’re delighted to have one game to go.
“We learned a harsh lesson (last season): you’ve no divine right to win any game; you can get caught any day; and if you’re caught on the wrong day, you’re out. We’re just happy to go at it every time we get the opportunity to represent the group, and we’re looking forward to another game.” Are expectations higher, given Na Piarsaigh picked up the All-Ireland title in 2016?
“You’re no longer going into the unknown. You’re going somewhere with good memories, Croke Park; and every player, hurler or footballer, everyone in the GAA has dreamed, at some point, of running out there.
“This group is lucky enough to have done that in recent times, but we’re not happy just running out there. It’s about the performance, and we feel we have a group that, when it performs, it wins more than it loses. We’re very happy with the group and we wouldn’t change any of them for anyone.
“We’re just delighted with our preparation. We’ll give it a good shot and see where it goes.” They haven’t done anything differently this year than last year to prepare for the final?
“No, not really. We found the break, before the last game, the lads were nearly itching to go, and it was very hard to pull the reins on some of them. They’re nearly here night and day, and any task you set them, they’re all over it. Any cup or trophy they win, they absolutely deserve.
“We tasted the success of that championship and we liked it; we want to taste it again. We’re certainly not going up to make up the numbers. We’re mindful of the task in front of us, but we’re willing to give it a good try and to see where that goes,” Bermingham says. They certainly did in making it through the All-Ireland semi-final: “That first half won’t be good enough, but the lads know that and won’t need reminding. They’re intelligent guys, on and off the field; they know what it takes and they know there’s a performance in them. I just hope that comes through on St Patrick’s Day.
“There were definitely times, in the semi-final, we were above our best, because we were rowing against the tide, down two men. We had no choice, other than being at our absolute best.
“The spine of the team, we really showed we were a team, and their composure on the ball was top class. They made all the right decisions and you’d be dead proud of them. Many a team would have packed up their bags and said ‘today’s not our day’, but they didn’t do that. They were true to the jersey, til the whistle went, and we were on the right side of the result.
“The prize is massive, so there was elation in the dressing room, to be back in an All-Ireland final. It’s a competition we set out to win, so there was no need to bring them back down to earth, because they were just happy not ot be knocked out, to be able to go back training for the final.”
Standing in their way are Cuala and Con O Callaghan. Is the focus on O’Callaghan any help to Na Piarsaigh? “No, because we’ll have to face Con O’Callaghan. I don’t know the guy personally, but he’s a phenomenal athlete and he’s surrounded by a phenomenal team, so we have to be mindful of the threat.
“You can’t be hellbent on one guy, either, but, yes, we have to be mindful of the threat he brings. Cuala are serious; a very, very good team. They have strength-in-depth, all over; it’s very hard to see any weakness there. We just hope we perform.
“We can only be conscious of what we can control. We can’t control how Cuala prepare.”
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