Focusing on the day job is key for Limerick's Iain Corbett

Last Sunday the Garda based in Cahir was on duty in Thurles for the hurling double-header. It was a reminder of what awaits him Saturday, a Munster football final against Kerry
Focusing on the day job is key for Limerick's Iain Corbett

Limerick players Donal O Sullivan, left, and Iain Corbett celebrate after their side's victory in the penalty shoot-out of the Munster GAA Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final match between Clare and Limerick at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Last Sunday was a work day for Iain Corbett, co-captain of the Limerick footballers.

The Garda based in Cahir was in Thurles - “They brought up a few extra bodies to deal with the traffic” - and the Cork-Tipperary and All-Ireland U20 hurling final doubleheader was a reminder of what awaits him on Saturday.

A Munster football final against Kerry.

“It struck me alright, that next weekend it’ll be a lot different, I won’t be in uniform and won’t be telling people to cop on. I’ll be focused on the game.

“But those occasions are special off the field, too, people are around to enjoy themselves, it brings out the best in the towns the games are played in, the communities involved take great pride in it and the vast majority of people are there to have a bit of crack and to watch their favourite team playing.” 

Is it an aid to the preparations spending the week in Cahir working rather than in Limerick?

“It does help, probably, the fact that people are probably more into their hurling in the area is another factor, it’s definitely different to what the build-up would be if I were down here in Limerick.

“I’ll keep to the usual routine with work and so on - work is probably a blessing in that sense because you can go in and focus on doing your job as opposed to being at home all day with the mother or father asking about training or who’s going well and who’ll start, all of that.

“I’m joint captain with Donal (O’Sullivan) and we’d liaise with Billy (Lee, manager), obviously enough, but it’s a mature group and it runs itself, really.

“We’ve lads who are around a good few years and don’t need to be told what to do - the captaincy is really about being a link between management and players.” 

They’re underdogs this Saturday, of course. The plan is to keep it tight early and stop Kerry cutting loose.

“We’re probably going in with little to no expectation from the wider audience, but we’re looking at that as giving us an opportunity to focus on ourselves and on our own performance.

“We’ve all seen how good Kerry are over the last few years, everyone has. If we’re not at the top of our game it could be a very long day for us, so we have to focus on ourselves and bring our best performance.

“We want to settle into our own game - it’s going to be a first Munster final for all of us with Limerick while the Kerry lads have come up playing in Munster finals as minors and U20s, so slowing the tempo for that first five to ten minutes, allowing us to settle, that’ll be important.” 

Corbett was on hand when Limerick took Kerry to a replay in the 2004 provincial decider: “I was at all the games, I was here for the draw and the game back in Killarney, and I was there for the game in 2010 as well.

“They were all close games, and we’d be hoping to replicate those performances - Limerick can bring a passion on the big occasion, and hopefully that will get us over the line.” Will they tap into their hurling counterparts’ experience of the big day to help?

“Definitely,” says Corbett.

“They’re Limerick GAA men as well and if they pick a football team to support it’s Limerick. A lot of the lads on the two panels are from the same club, or they went to the same schools.

“We’d be in the gym together and they’re a great resource to hop off in terms of little bits and pieces for preparation and so on.

“It’s been a good few weeks for the GAA in Limerick. We had the U20 All-Ireland final last weekend, even if the result didn’t go our way, so having two senior Munster finals is fantastic. From a football point of view, having Limerick in the football game is great, obviously.

“It’s great to enjoy the week heading into the game, but if you go out and get hammered in the game then it’s not nearly as enjoyable.

“On the other hand, we don’t know when we’ll get back here - this is my eleventh year on the panel and it’s my first Munster final, so you have to enjoy it too when you do get to play in one.” 

It’s a far cry from losing heavily in Division Four games, he adds.

“There were difficult days. We took some bad beatings (in Division 4), and we were struggling at the time, but I always took great pride in representing my family and my club with Limerick.

“Once I got older then I was always trying to push standards within the group, to reach the highest level we could.

“And we’d like to build on getting to the final, too. It’s been mentioned that the lads from the academy in Limerick are only beginning to come through now, and you’d hope that next Saturday is a stepping-stone - that it’s the kind of standard that Limerick will reach from now on, for the next ten to fifteen years, hopefully.”

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