There’s been no mention in the Crokes camp of an All-Ireland club semi-final or avenging the spring disappointments of 2012, ‘13 and ‘14.
No question but that is the driving motivation behind their latest Munster assault. According to selector Harry O’Neill, though, they dare not throw even the slightest of glances beyond Sunday’s provincial decider.
In the past, a Crokes team might have looked past — or even down upon — Waterford opposition. There have been too many scares, however, to have them underestimate this weekend’s final opponents.
Instead of trying for a fourth consecutive Munster title in the winter of 2014, the Crokes players were sat at home as rivals Austin Stacks somehow recovered from the concession of 1-3 inside eight minutes and the sending off of centre-forward Shane Carroll to overcome The Nire.
The 2006 decider is another decent reference point. Crokes, after kicking 2-4 by the 14th minute to move well clear of the Waterford club, did not further add to their tally until the 59th minute when a Colm Cooper free saw them home by 2-5 to 0-8.
“The Nire were the dominant team for most of that game. We counted ourselves extremely lucky that day,” recalls O’Neill.
“This is their second Munster final in three years. You don’t get there by being a poor side.They would have been very disappointed with themselves against Austin Stacks two years ago. When they look back at the amount of chances they missed, they’ll say they left that one behind.
“Underestimate The Nire and you’ll be sent packing, that I can assure you.”
O’Neill remembers Crokes’ 2010 Munster semi-final against Aherlow at Cashel, an afternoon where the Killarney outfit very nearly paid the price for failing to give their opponents the respect they merited — Crokes won through after extra-time.
“On days like that, players look at it and they think they don’t have to work as hard as they might do in other games. People will say Waterford are underdogs on the county scene in Munster, but when you come to the club end of things, it is a completely different kettle of fish. They’ve an All Star hurler, they’ve other guys who are on that Waterford hurling team and guys who are playing on the Waterford football team. If our players underestimate them at this stage, then there is something seriously wrong.
“Loughmore-Castleiney opened our eyes again the last day. I am not saying our lads underestimated Loughmore, but maybe there was something in the back of their minds. Within the players’ head, the thinking is we have got to get to Christmas and if we do manage to get there, then we can look at getting set-up to do ourselves justice in an All-Ireland semi-final, which we haven’t done in the previous three attempts.”
The Kerry champions report a clean bill of health ahead of their bid for a fourth Munster crown in six years, with no injuries from last weekend’s county league final win over Austin Stacks.
“The game wasn’t ideal in terms of preparation. Ideally, you would prefer if you were working with your own group and in total control of what you’re doing.”
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