The increased number of championship games brought about by the provincial round-robin format makes it harder to successfully defend the Liam MacCarthy Cup, according to Limerick’s Diarmaid Byrnes.
Under the current format, no county can expect to achieve All-Ireland glory in less than seven games.
Limerick played eight en route to the title in 2018 and when asked why counties find it so difficult to string together back-to-back titles (only Cork and Kilkenny have managed to do so since the turn of the millennium), Treaty defender Byrnes pointed to the number of challenges which teams must negotiate during the summer.
“With the new format, it’s a very long year when you are only coming in off the back of a very long year. So [back-to-back] is a difficult thing to do, especially with the new format of more games and higher intensity. You are asking a lot of the body,” said Byrnes, whose 2020 season begins this evening as Limerick host Tipperary in the Co-op Superstores Munster Senior Hurling League (LIT Gaelic Grounds, 7.30pm).
“A couple of players might have different views, but there are a lot of games and more preparation to go in. More gym work, more fieldwork, so there’s a lot in it. To win one is very hard; to do back-to-back is very special. For me, I never felt [more pressure as champions]. I look at it game on game.”
Limerick, champions in 2018, weren’t a million miles off retaining their crown this year.
John Kiely’s charges swept past Tipperary in a one-sided Munster final before falling by the minimum to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final.
The finish to the latter was clouded in controversy as a Darragh O’Donovan sideline cut, which deflected off Cillian Buckley’s hurley before crossing the end-line, was incorrectly waved wide. Byrnes insists Limerick have moved on from the incident.
Hopefully, they (the GAA) learn from it and nobody has to go through what we went through in the semi-final. The technology is there, we already have HawkEye. That’s only for wide balls, though, so I don’t know.
Byrnes added: “When we look back on the year, it wasn’t that bad. We finished with a national league title, our first in so many years, and we won our first Munster since 2013.
“You look at the All-Ireland semi-final, we probably didn’t perform as well as we thought we could. There are things you think about that you might do differently, it’s like any sport. You weigh up the pros and cons, you even look at the match prep, whether it be the bus journey in or when you eat your meal as the time of the match was different.
“That was our first Saturday championship match all year, but we have that experience now which is good.”
The Patrickswell man heaped praise on the retiring Paul Browne and Richie McCarthy, the latter having taken Byrnes under his wing when he joined the set-up.
“In 2016, when I came in, Richie, who was full-back at the time, was great to me. Just minding me, saying little things to help me, little things that I probably wouldn’t have been aware of at that level.”
Kerry also open their Munster SHL account this evening, Fintan O’Connor’s side are in Mallow to face Cork (7.30pm).
The Kingdom will be without Jack Goulding in 2020, the corner-forward is now working as a physio in London.
“We were looking into the feasibility of Jack commuting over and back but it looks like that is not possible so he will be a big loss to us,” said O’Connor.
Barry O’Mahony, who was half-back on the LIT team that reached the All-Ireland freshers hurling final last April, is currently part of Peter Keane’s senior football squad.
“Peter has spoken to me about Barry and while I am disappointed that we don’t have him, the door is always open for Barry depending on how things work out with the footballers.
“He will be playing Fitzgibbon Cup with LIT so he will be playing plenty of hurling. Jason Diggins is back, which is a big bonus; Shane Nolan returns; while Daniel Collins is with us from the start. We will be without the Ballyduff lads for the Cork game, due to a wedding, but we still expect the team put out to do Kerry proud.”