Let no-one tell you that playing at home isn’t a major advantage.
All that auld guff about ‘Once the ball is thrown in, it’s just you and your opponent, it’s about what happens inside those white lines’.
Nonsense, says Limerick captain Donal O’Grady, as he and his team-mates head into what he’s sure will be the lion’s den of Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday, in defence of their Munster senior hurling crown.
“Genuinely, and I’d say no player will say otherwise, you do feed off the crowd,” he said.
“It’s a huge help. Cork fans will probably outnumber Limerick and there’s something about Pairc Uí Chaoimh. They’re very proud of their county.”
It was certainly a major advantage for Limerick last year when they beat Cork at the Gaelic Grounds. Where it does get tricky, he admits, is when things aren’t going very well for the home side.
“It’s a huge advantage when you’re playing well and the crowd get behind you but you have to get to that stage, because it can work the other way if you’re struggling to make an impact, the crowd can get on edge,” he said.
“Luckily enough we were probably point for point last year until 15 minutes to go, and then the crowd drove us on home after that.”
Neutralising that advantage then, bursting the bubble of the home support early on — as Germany did to Brazil in the World Cup semi-final on Tuesday — that’s what Donal and Limerick will be trying to do.
“Yeah, and I assume that’s the way they would have targeted last year. A big part of our game is to start well, as it is theirs. They started very well against Clare [semi-final win over the All-Ireland champions]. It’s harder because I know from Páirc Uí Chaoimh when it’s sold out, that the atmosphere there is electric.”
Despite all the furore over the last few weeks about whether Páirc Uí Chaoimh would be deemed suitable or not, Limerick had prepared to head for Cork, and they’re ready.
“We had it in our heads from the start that it would be in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and that was only fair to Cork because we had the advantage, if you want to call it that, of being at home last year. There were rumours going around that the capacity would be a concern, but not for the players. We were just focused on Páirc Uí Chaoimh.”
When Limerick beat Tipperary last year in the Munster semi-final, then Cork in the final, they were underdogs. When they beat Tipperary away this year, they were underdogs. Now, Munster champions, conquerors of a Tipp team which showed last Sunday against Galway just how good they are, they are again underdogs.
“At home in the shop there would be 100 people every day who come in want to and talk about hurling,” says O’Grady. “You can quickly cop onto their vibe in terms of what they are thinking.” And that thinking?
“I wouldn’t say they’re going down overly confident. I think going down maybe in hope more than expectation.”
Isn’t that though an indictment of the fans, that lack of faith in a team that by any objective measure now, ranks among the best?
“It works both ways. Tipp have got the better of us over the last 10 years and it’s always been very close, but just to get over them was a mental thing, to finish the game like that stronger in the last 10 minutes.
“So we [the players] are confident. If we can be there or thereabouts coming into the latter stages; we might have the experience and know-how to get over the line.”
Meanwhile Munster final ticket fever has been alleviated, if only a little by news that a limited number of terrace tickets will be on sale this morning. €20 terrace will be released at 9am by the Munster Council via gaa.tickets.ie and some Centra or SuperValu stores.
A Munster Council source last night said it had always been their intention to make a number of tickets available closer to the game.
However, the tickets barely satisfy the intense demand to see the eagerly-anticipated game, a rematch of last year’s decider, in what is the stadium’s last inter-county game before reconstruction work begins.
Both Cork and Limerick are understood to be disappointed with their ticket allocations for the game. For example, in the uncovered stand the host county is believed to have been given 26% of the total number of seats under the revised total capacity of 32,168.
A final capacity is expected to be confirmed today with the possibility of further tickets being made available to the public if health and safety experts give the go-ahead.
However, there is great consternation in both counties with the lack of family tickets and reduced number of disability admissions.
Meanwhile, Limerick City Council is in the process of organising a big screen to show the final live in the city. The last time one was erected for a hurling game was the 2007 All-Ireland final against Kilkenny.
TJ Ryan is expected to name an unchanged side for the decider though there is speculation Niall Moran will be named on the bench.
Cork are reporting a clean bill of health, though there are concerns about the fitness of Damien Cahalane (heel) and Mark Ellis (knee/rib).
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