Tony Ward was chatting to the press after last Saturday night’s Limerick SHC semi-final when he reduced the conversation to first principles.
His Doon side had eased past Kilmallock with an efficient display to book a place in the decider against Na Piarsaigh, but Ward was stressing how significant a first senior title is to a club. How challenging the step is.
“The first is always the sweetest one,” he said this week, building on that thesis.
“And it’s also the hardest one - getting over the line is always a big challenge.
“It’s often experience that’s the crucial factor - you might have the best team in the world on paper, but if they don’t have that touch of know-how, if they haven’t been there before, then it can be very difficult.
“Look at Na Piarsaigh. They’re a good side overall. They have tradition, they’ve won county titles and All-Ireland club titles, and those aren’t easily won - that means they're respected by the other clubs in Limerick, and they’re entitled to that respect."
Ward didn’t see Na Piarsaigh swat Patrickswell aside in the other semi-final last Saturday, but that’s not to say he didn’t take notice of the city side.
“Their physicality is huge. We togged out at the same end of the stand in the Gaelic Grounds as them last weekend, so they were passing us in when we were finished, getting ready for their own game.
“And I remarked to one of our lads how big and physical they were, but it’s not just being big and strong.
Doon bring good form to Saturday evening’s clash, though Ward gives a brisk appraisal of the semi-final: “I think the game ran for us, in fairness. Our first goal in particular came at a crucial time in the game and it kept us that four or five points ahead all through the game.
“That meant Kilmallock were forcing the game a bit, which was great from our point of view, we were able to keep our noses in front - they’d probably have been in the same position if they got that first goal.”
He’s enjoying his time in Limerick (“It’s 81 miles from my back door to Doon but that’s mostly motorway”), comparing his charges’ focus to that of a county side.
“There can be challenges with a club team. It can be a bit of a pain when you get started because you have that time when you’re getting to know all the people in the club, what the players’ form is like, that kind of thing.
“But the flip side is that they’re a serious group in Doon. There are 38 lads on our panel, and they all just want the same thing, which is great. It’s almost like being over a county team, they’re so focused on that.
“Sometimes you could be with a club and you’d spend your time begging some fellas to come to training, or trying to persuade some other fella to give it one more year.
As he says, there’s a formidable obstacle in their way.
“Na Piarsaigh will be favourites and we’ll be underdogs, they probably feel they left last year’s county final after them - that could be as much of a motivation for them as beating us.
“We know what’s ahead of us, particularly when we have to plan without Richie and Darragh, they’re a huge loss. If you were naming the fifteen best hurlers in Ireland they’d come into the equation, so it’s a blow not to have them.”
That’s Richie English and Darragh O’Donovan, two Limerick seniors who’d be a considerable boost to Doon if fit. English is a long-term absentee with a cruciate problem. O’Donovan might figure this evening. Might.
“Darragh’s a big doubt. It would be a big ask for him to play, to be honest.
“We’ll leave the decision to the medical team - that’s what they’re there for, and whatever advice they give us, we’ll take that on board.”
They’ll take positives where they can. Ward has a glass half-full take on the lockdown, for instance.
“I think it’s been an advantage, particularly for clubs like Doon which haven’t the experience of winning lots of county titles.
“The lockdown and so on means there’s been a pretty low-key build-up, there isn’t much chance of doing something different for the final compared to the earlier rounds - you can just treat it like the other games, follow the same routine without making too much of it.
“For all our games we meet in Doon the day of the game and head off together to the Gaelic Grounds or wherever the match is on. We’ll do the same today, which means there’s no added pressure involved - if it’s good enough it’s good enough. If not then we’ll deal with that, too.”