Ryan: We must learn from pain and focus on positives

“FLYING IT!” That was the surprising reaction of Limerick selector TJ Ryan yesterday when asked how he was feeling after Sunday’s heartbreaking late-goal loss to Waterford in the Munster SHC semi-final.

“That’s hurling, you have to get on with it. We are in the qualifiers which is not our preferred route but at least it’s there and gives us a chance to recover. We must learn from the negatives and build on the positives. The most important thing is to keep working and get a championship win under our belt.”

Upbeat he may have been yesterday but that wasn’t the case immediately after the game, and that wasn’t the case with the players either whose disappointment was evident in the number of helmets and hurleys flung away in disgust at the final whistle. In a second-half display of power, passion and purpose, Limerick had the champions on the rack but failed to capitalise and were punished at the death.

Ryan continued: “Everyone knew the chance was there, and great matches, great performances, mean nothing – you’d prefer to be winning, even a bad game.

“We expected to win, that’s what we worked towards, and they knew the opportunity had been there. We missed the opportunities we created while Waterford created that goal chance and took it – the final score, that’s what it’s all about.”

For the players it’s back to their clubs with another championship round this weekend, and a welcome break for them too, reckons Ryan.

“I think that will do them good, the club is still a hugely important element in any player’s life, to be back among their own. They’ll come back with us then next week and hopefully the spirits will be lifted.”

Next up for Limerick is a qualifier round against one of the beaten Leinster semi-finalists, one of Wexford or the losers of Saturday’s clash of Dublin and Galway. No easy game there but Limerick should be reinforced by then by the considerable presence of the returning Stephen Lucey to shore up what was a shaky full-back line, and the hugely-talented Declan Hannon up front. The three Waterford goals were all preventable, Tom Condon caught wrong-side for John Mullane’s first, two players – who were both in the right position, goal-side of their opponents under the dropping ball – caught flat-footed for Shane Walsh’s fine strike, then everyone caught ball-watching for the final cross in the final minute that allowed Mullane drift free for the pass.

The very vocal Lucey would ensure no-one was caught like that again. Up front, two-goal hero Kevin Downes will surely now be a marked man, but what if he’s joined by his former Árd Scoil Rís teammate Hannon, to augment an already mobile attack? Despite Sunday’s setback, this all means that Limerick hurling is in a very good place right now, and heading in the right direction. “Those two players are important, but more important for all of us is that we learn from this experience, and improve from it. The last few months have been great for Limerick hurling with Árd Scoil Rís retaining the Harty Cup, the minors winning, the Division 2 title won, and if we had been able to hold out on Sunday it would really have capped things off. We were expecting a good performance and that’s what we got. Hopefully there will be better days ahead.”

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