‘Bubbles are very easily burst’

His father Dave was on the bench, his uncle Rod on the 40, and sure enough three-year-old Jack Guiney was in the stand that fateful September 1, 18 years ago.

Only it was all too much for toddler Jack. Not even Tom Dempsey’s goal could stir him from his slumber.

“I think my mother told me that I slept through the whole thing!”

The history is parked for him, though. This run of games, Sunday being their fourth in as many weeks — a fifth for him considering the U21 Leinster final, keeps him cemented in the present.

“This group of players haven’t played Limerick in the Championship yet at any level. It’s going to be a new one for us, but we have played them a few times in the league and we know what they are capable of doing.

“They are very impressive and they are probably a step or two ahead of us, where we are in terms of our development. It’s going to be a massive challenge for us.”

The sense of newness extends beyond their lack of familiarity with the opposition. The euphoria that envelops the county right now is not something the panel, not even players like 30-year-old Keith Rossiter, have experienced.

And yet Guiney is keeping his composure. What has built this past month, he says, can fall apart in an instant.

“The whole thing is in a bubble at the moment, but bubbles are very easily burst. If we go out next weekend and don’t show up and fail to perform, there’s going to be very few people talking about us.

“You have to keep your head fairly level and a pat in the back is only a couple of inches away from a kick in the hole, so that’s the way we look at it.

“It’s the perspective we have coming from the backroom team — the likes of Gerry Fitzpatrick and Liam (Dunne). He’s been there, he’s seen it — he has a great perspective and that helps us a lot.”

Last year Clare benefited from their senior and U21 championship campaigns running parallel.

Wexford find themselves in the same situation now and Guiney notices they are so far complementing one another.

“It raises the standard, but I don’t think any of the U21s are going to get in on this team easy. There’s some stalwarts there — the likes of Keith Rossiter. I know he had to come off (v Waterford last Saturday), but there’s no one going to take his place in a hurry. The likes of Rory Jacob there — these are top class players.

“The U21s are really, really going to have to earn their spot on the team and there’s a big challenge for panel spots as well as team spots. It’s a really collective effort and the lads that are in, they are very proud to be in and so am I. It’s obviously a help.”

After Clare forced them into extra-time a second time, selector Ger Cushe, another 1996 veteran, told them the errors they were making were easily addressed.

Guiney tends to agree. “The mistakes we are making, we are improving on them. We made a lot of mistakes against Waterford and we have a lot of things to improve on for the Limerick game, so hopefully we can work on the whole lot.

“We know that if a team gets two goals on us we are well capable of coming back up the field and scoring another one, or getting a few points and getting a run on a team. I think teams are most vulnerable when they score goals.

“We saw that when Clare scored a goal and it has happened to us before as well, so we’ll see now how we get on against Limerick.”

Last Saturday and again on Sunday and Monday, the players took themselves off to beaches like Curracloe to ease their aching limbs with saltwater and rid them of lactic acid.

“You’d get in for five minutes, out for five minutes and back at it again, so hopefully that will have us in order now for Limerick.”


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