So says Kilmurry-Ibrickane veteran, Odran O’Dwyer, who is preparing for a Munster semi-final against Stradbally in Dungarvan’s Fraher Field tomorrow.
This clash between the champions of Clare and Waterford is a repeat of the 2004 Munster final, when O’Dwyer was on the victorious side. It was more than two months before Kilmurry-Ibrickane got to play in the All-Ireland semi-final though, and O’Dwyer has called on GAA chiefs to review the competition format.
“People talk about burnout and that, but the All-Ireland club championships should be over in the first week of December,” O’Dwyer declared.
“This week you’ll have the final of the Connacht championship (between Charlestown and Corofin) and the winners of that game will have only two more games if they are to win an All-Ireland in March. That’s training for three months through the winter for two games. Meanwhile, you have lads that are involved with the county going back there as well and working different programmes. It’s absolutely crazy.”
O’Dwyer knows all about the inter-county scene having captained Clare minors in 1992, the year the Banner defeated Kerry to claim the Munster senior title. He stepped up with the big boys the following season and remained a regular until retiring from the top flight in 2006.
Now approaching his 36th birthday, he is reminded regularly by his team-mates, who include brothers, Michael and Peter, that he is the “elder statesman” of the group.
He takes it all in good humour but chuckles that “old age” might have something to do with the injury that troubled him for much of the season.
“I didn’t play much earlier in the year. I didn’t play any of the league and only came on as a sub in the semi-final and final of the championship due to an ongoing back injury. It wasn’t something I’d had before but I work in the sports injury field so I would have known how to treat it, and would have had colleagues working on it as well.”
His first start came in the hugely impressive six-point defeat of Limerick’s Munster champions, Drom-Broadford, who had beaten them by the odd point in 11 in last year’s provincial final. It was Kilmurry-Ibrickane’s best showing of the season with O’Dwyer hitting two points from full-forward.
“I only got in through bad fortune for others, who picked up a few injuries. As a unit, the team played well. Playing on your own patch is worth three or four points straight away but I felt Drom-Broadford hadn’t the same hunger or the same bite on the field as they had last year.”
Having had a prolonged campaign last term probably contributed to Kilmurry-Ibrickane’s slow start to this term O’Dwyer reckons, while teams also set themselves up to counter their strengths.
But every game is different, he reminds you. And beating Drom-Broadford will stand for nothing tomorrow.
“Stradbally have their way to go out and play. Conditions will be a big factor and it’s a doubt whether the game will go ahead at all or not with all the rain that’s falling. We played Stradbally in the Munster final and won by a point in a replay. It could have gone any way so we know how good they are. They’re a strong side.”