Former Limerick boss John Allen says an unexplained nervousness in the defeat to Clare cost the Treaty hurlers a place in the All-Ireland SHC final.
Buoyed by their Munster title win, Allen is convinced that September glory was within the remit of his players.
However he laments their semi-final showing, a performance “pervaded” by an edginess that hadn’t been evident in their run to the last four.
Allen also expressed frustration at the injuries to Seanie Tobin and Kevin Downes during club games prior to the semi-final and while both players featured against Clare, neither were afforded sufficient recovery time.
“For some unknown reason as soon as the sliotar was thrown in on the Sunday, it became apparent there was a nervousness in our play which pervaded much of our performance,” Allen wrote in a special Irish Examiner booklet for the Munster GAA Awards.
“The game itself has been well analysed since and no amount of criticism or theories will change the result. It was very disappointing for all. As the qualifiers progressed and the three top teams all exited, it became a real prospect that Limerick could actually win the All-Ireland in 2013. I’ve no doubt that Cork, Dublin and Clare all had similar ideas. Clare gave a top-class performance to end Galway’s year and were improving with every game but we had beaten them in last year’s championship and while we respected their potential and current form, we didn’t fear them.
“We travelled to Dublin on the Saturday afternoon and stayed in Portmarnock. We were quite isolated out there. We had what I considered a very productive quiz night. The atmosphere among the players was excellent.
“The players had dedicated their year to being “right” and I’m satisfied the vast majority put their lives on hold to reach this pinnacle. Unfortunately, the performance didn’t reflect this.”
Munster glory was undoubtedly the highlight of Limerick’s hurling year and though the scalp of Tipperary heralded their arrival as genuine championship contenders, Allen maintained the corner was turned a month earlier when Kilkenny were overcome in a challenge game at Martinstown.
“What was grating me more than anything after the league final defeat to Dublin was that I knew the majority of our players were preparing as professionally as any full- time sportsperson. The dexa scan results were proof positive. There was a lot of sacrifice involved. Collective training, generally, was excellent but we were failing to bring it onto the field of play often enough.
“A week off training was followed by a return to Rathkeale for the start of championship preparations. We trained in UL on the Thursday night and adjourned to the meeting room afterwards. It was the first time in my two years that winning Muster, or dare I say it, an All-Ireland, was spoken about with conviction. It was great to hear the players actually verbalise that a championship trophy could be won this year. The on-field proof began to manifest itself with a very encouraging performance against Kilkenny on a beautiful Sunday evening in mid May in Martinstown. On that evening in front of most of the ’73 team, the present boys in green gave a first sign that there were better days ahead. The first of those better days came on a sweltering early June evening in the Gaelic Grounds. I don’t know if I appreciate enough the value of the Tipperary victory.”
Allen acknowledges Pa Horgan’s sending-off as a key factor in the provincial decider and is optimistic that the victory, a first Munster crown in 17 years, will serve as a launch pad to September success next year.
“At half-time we decided to use Richie McCarthy as our free man. He played this role very well. Our backs played excellently throughout the second-half and we brought on the same fresh legs as in the semi-final and again to great effect. The scenes at the end with the crowd invasion showed what this important victory meant to the fateful supporters. The Munster final victory was a milestone for the players, but also a stepping stone. Maybe for next year that Munster final victory and the confidence it has fostered will be the cornerstone for the campaign which will take Limerick all the way up the steps of the Hogan Stand next September.”
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