Richie Bennis has no doubts when asked which Patrickswell team this current side remind him of.
“The 1980s team when Gary (Kirby) and Ciarán (Carey) and Anthony Carmody and Patrick Carey came through. They were all of the same age but at that time there was a few more senior players there.
“The problem with this team is that there aren’t many senior players there to guide them. They’re out there on their own but I think they have arrived.
“They play a lovely brand of hurling. They’re playing with a crispness, which is what Patrickswell would always have been noted for. We’re moving the ball fast and long and it looks good.
“The omens are good for the future because the talent is coming up and young fellas need something to aspire to. They’re seeing this team now getting to a final.
“That was a tradition in Patrickswell and hopefully we’re now recreating that tradition.”
A first final in nine years, tomorrow’s clash with favourites Na Piarsaigh comes seven days after Ciarán Carey’s exciting outfit demolished Adare by 22 points in the semi-final.
In only his first year, Carey, with the help of former Limerick team-mate and Adare man Mark Foley as coach, has ignited the potential in the group. Carey puts it down to getting the basics right. “I suppose we have gone back to grassroots really, a small bit of old stock training and old stock mentality.
“If you are playing hurling, it is more than a pastime and they needed to realise that and give the hurling the respect and love that it deserves. And the jersey they are wearing equally needed the love it deserves.”
Bennis has marvelled at Carey’s work as his men cut a swath through the competition. “Himself and Mark Foley have done a great job, they’ve added a different dimension to what was there. The previous management were doing well but this pair have things going the right way.
“We made no impression on the championship until the last two or three years. Under-age level has been very good to us over the last 10 years. We have been winning or being there or thereabouts.
“My view is if you are reaching finals at underage level then you’re doing all the right things. But all our experien-ced lads retired together and we had to start off with a very young group at senior level.
“Last year in the championship there were 10 of them who are still playing U21 this year. A lot of them played in 2013 as well so they’re getting good experience at a young age. Bar Barry Foley, they’re all pretty young.”
There is Brian Murray too of course and Bennis can’t understate the importance of experienced heads.
At full-back, captain Foley, known more for his attacking exploits, has looked the part just as Murray, who starred for Limerick under Bennis’ management in 2007, has impressed between the sticks.
“Barry is doing a great job at full-back. He’s really come good there and it had been a problem position for him. Brian Murray, to me, is still the best goalie in Limerick.”
Carey jokes that Foley never saw himself as a full-back whereas he had earmarked him for it quite some time back. “He didn’t even see it coming. I saw it coming a long way away! To be fair, Barry is extremely quick going from A to B.”
Bennis wouldn’t be one to argue Na Piarsaigh’s favourites status, but at the same time is loathe to suggest this is just the first of many finals for Patrickswell. Strike while the iron’s hot, he says, and after last month’s U21 All-Ireland success, he knows a third of the starting Patrickswell team have momentum.
“We had four or five lads involved in the U21s that won the All-Ireland. You’d Diarmaid Byrnes. Without hyping him up too much, he’s a great prospect. He’s a great yoke. You’ve Cian Lynch, Kevin O’Brien and Jack Kelliher and Aaron Gillane. They’re all good hurlers. It’s a good nucleus to have and all are genuine lads.”
Bennis was impressed with how Lynch handled the attention following his dazzling senior championship debut against Clare. “Through no fault of his own, the display against Clare brought that upon him. All ye blokes (in the media) cashed in on it, which is the normal thing to do!”
Everything is new for Lynch just as it is for Carey as he prepares for his first final as manager. “Obviously, it’s a totally different ball game because it is my first year with my home club. It’s a totally different jump from a player to a manager but when you are dealing with your own blood and the tradition and history of your own club it is extra special.”
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