Water breaks weren’t around in July 2019 but in the opening quarter of their All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny, Limerick were figuratively taking on plenty of H20.
Down 1-8 to 0-3 after 18 minutes, it was a deficit they ultimately couldn’t make up and if there is one criticism of this great Limerick side it’s that they have been slower out of the blocks than their opponents.
Since then, they have trailed at the first water break in four of their seven championship outings, leading on just two occasions. The Munster final was the latest example of their early sluggishness before the defending champions eventually came good with that second half display for the ages.
Corner-back Seán Finn has an explanation for that apparent trend. “It’s important to recognise it. There isn’t necessarily an emphasis on it. Of course, teams when they’re playing us there’s going to be a level of adrenaline and they’re going to be up for it against us and you’re going to see a big push in the first 15 or 20 minutes. But as the game progresses that can often deteriorate, that adrenaline rush and that emotion.
“Of course, at times we might have been considered to be slow starters but in the Munster final we were actually in a good place even with 20 minutes gone. It’s something to consider no doubt, the All-Ireland final last year and the All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny in 2019. We just focus on ourselves, we know 70 minutes is a long time and if we play well over 70 minutes we’ll be in a good position.”
Waterford’s momentum should count for a lot early on in this Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final just as it aided Kilkenny in 2019 when they came into the game off the back of a good quarter-final win over Cork.
Similar to that season, Limerick arrive in Croke Park after an emphatic Munster final victory but the subsequent loss to Brian Cody’s side is a matter the Shannonsiders have long since digested, insists Finn.
“2019 is a long way away and we have addressed it and we have done well since. We have a lot of reference points, good performances, but there are also a lot of important reference points from where we have lost games and learned from them. I don’t think that semi-final of two years ago is something we talk about or consider. We have had a lot of good performances since then and I don’t think that will be of concern going into the next game.”
Speaking after the victory over Tipperary, John Kiely proclaimed the third quarter as the best performance Limerick have produced in his five seasons in charge. Finn wouldn’t go that far. “I don’t think it was our best ever performance. We have shown glimpses of real excellence over the last number of years and we have yet to put that into a 70-minute game.
“We might have done it for 20 or 25 minutes in the second half against Tipp but in that 20-25 minutes there were a lot of errors as well and we were punished for the mistakes that we made. I’s just important now that we bring that second half performance and don’t allow teams to pick up a six-point lead or 10-point lead on us when we have to come back and draw on that extraordinary performance again.”
Not knowing it was Waterford they were facing until Saturday didn’t matter a bit to Finn and Limerick, he maintains. “We don’t necessarily focus on who we’re playing. As a team, it’s ‘game four’ or ‘game five’. The opposition in some respects doesn’t matter. If we focus on ourselves, and we perform the way we do and we expect of ourselves, then we will be in a good position.”
And that applies to Finn on an individual level also.
“Of course, other players would look at players they’re marking but I have a fair idea over the past couple of years of what a player’s like, what their main side is from shooting but I have my own way of playing too. If I play the way I like to play and I have good faith and good trust in my ability as a corner-back (I feel) that I’ll be able to handle whatever comes.”