When Limerick and Kilkenny shape up Saturday evening in the All-Ireland SHC semi-final, it’ll bring back particularly fond memories for one of the men in green and white.
Tom Morrissey’s mazy run and stirring point helped Limerick over the line when the two sides met in last year’s championship, but the Ahane man was downplaying the significance of the score this week.
“As an individual it’s not so much about showing leadership but about getting your hands on the ball and influence the game, to get yourself or other lads into the game and to stop the flow Kilkenny were on at that moment.
“I was lucky in that I was the one the ball came to and I got the score but someone else would stand up another day. It’s not even thinking as much as instinct, you know something has to be done so you just go and do it.”
In that game, and others, Limerick showed coolness coming down the final stretch.
“That might come down to the experience of winning tight games,” said Morrissey.
“We played Galway in Salthill last year and got a victory after being in a bad position earlier in the game. We went to Cork and were a man down after 20 minutes, we had that experience of getting good results out of bad situations.
“It was no different last year against Kilkenny in Thurles. When Richie Hogan got the goal it was looking bad for us but as a group we remained focused. The game-plan we had implemented all that day, we stuck to it and it eventually got us over the line.”
Was that win one of the standout moments of a season packed with highlights?
“Last year the summer of hurling was a bit mad, and we were involved in a lot of big games, coming out on the right side in most of them.
“That Kilkenny game was a stand-out moment, no doubt, they’ve been top dogs for the last decade, so beating them in a knock-out game, an All-Ireland quarter-final, was massive for the group.”
So much for 2018. Limerick boss John Kiely says Kilkenny are stronger this season than last year. Morrissey can go back one year further.
“They’re definitely going to be tough, I think both teams have improved since last year.
“In 2017 they beat us by three points in Nowlan Park, last year we got over the line by two, so I expect the same Saturday. There won’t be much between the teams and you know you’re going to get a good battle against Kilkenny.
“We’re hoping for a similar performance this weekend (to last year). Obviously that was a great win for us as a group, to get over the line against Kilkenny, probably the strongest traditional powerhouse in the last few years — as an emerging team it was great for our belief to beat them last year, it was one of the big moments for this team.”
Winning all those tight games last year has to help with the confidence.
“Obviously going out you want to beat teams well and give a good performance, and there’s a huge benefit in having had those tight games and coming out the right side of them.
“To get that experience, it’s massive for any team. We’re lucky as a team to have come out on the right side of those results for the most part, and sometimes when you’re in a situation where you’re looking down the final stretch and you’re in a spot of bother, you can remain calm and stick to the game-plan we have, get over the line.
“Going forward we know that whatever situation we’re faced with, we have it in our locker to get over the line.” They have to deal with the lay-off after the Munster final win over Tipperary: The Munster champions haven’t always dealt with that lay-off too well, but Morrissey sees positives in the break, and in learning who their opponents would be: “It might have been a bit longer but it doesn’t feel like that. We got a week off training after the Munster final, which I think most players wanted and appreciated.
“We had a long league campaign, a tough Munster campaign, so the week off shortened the window to this game, only three weeks of a build up. It hasn’t been too long coming around, to be honest.
“I watched Cork-Kilkenny at home. Everyone’s different, some watched it at home and some didn’t watch it, I’d say, we have a small benefit in that you get to see what you’re up against.
“So I watched it in my own time and then when we got together the lads had some video analysis for us, obviously trying to exploit some weaknesses we see in Kilkenny and I’m sure they’ve done the same.”
Is it different this year as All-Ireland champions?
“There probably is a different feel to it, at this time last year there was probably more excitement and hype around us, this year it’s more expectation might be the word used.
“People expect a level of performance and a victory that they didn’t expect this time last year, but that doesn’t bother us as a group.
“We focus on getting ourselves right and don’t focus on what’s going on with the public and the media.
“There’s an expectation now that we can deliver a good performance and win and make an All-Ireland final. Obviously we had that expectation quietly last year, but maybe more people expect it of us this year.“