Sarsfields boss Pat Ryan reassembled his charges on the Thursday evening after their Cork county final win. Celebrations were cut short as a statement of intent.
The focus these past four weeks has been on using the body rather than the hurley, winning the dirty ball — areas where they fell short in their previous Munster sojourns.
“We went back on the Thursday night and it was definitely the earliest we have ever gone back training after a county final victory,” says captain Tadhg Óg Murphy.
“In other years, we would have taken the week and the following weekend off after the final. This time management agreed we would go back early and get some heavy work done to get rid of the celebrations.
“It sent out a message of our intent and players responded. There were mad celebrations when we won the county in 2008, very long celebrations. With experience you get a bit more grounded and focus more on the Munster championship rather than treat it as bonus territory. We didn’t enjoy success in Munster we would have wanted in the last couple of years. We want to change that. Training has been tailored around coping with winter conditions. We played Gort in a challenge over the Bank Holiday weekend. The ground was heavy, the wind and rain lashed. Those are the conditions you have to learn to hurl in and thrive in.”
Their quarter-final win over Crusheen in 2008 was Sars’ only Munster Club championship win, an unacceptable track record, insists Murphy.
“There is a perception we lost focus or we didn’t really go for Munster. That is an unfair assumption. Any time we prepared for Munster championship, I felt the focus was unbelievable. We played some of our best hurling in Munster. We took De La Salle to extra-time in 2010. We started poorly against Thurles Sarsfields in 2012 but fought our way back into it. The quality is so high it nearly comes down to one breaking ball. The De La Salle semi-final in 2010 stands out as the one you look back on with regret. We had a chance to beat them.
“They got the equaliser deep in injury-time. Kevin Moran split the posts from 80 yards. Fairytale stuff. To get to a Munster final would be a big achievement, it remains our goal.”
On the challenge of Limerick champions, Kilmallock, the Gaelcholáiste Mhuire teacher added: “Their county final was on television so it was handy enough we could watch them. We are lucky enough that over the last couple of years we have played challenges against Kilmallock. It seems to be an annual thing we play them in Buttevant. We know their players, the likes of Graeme Mulcahy, Bryan O’Sullivan and Gavin O’Mahony. They had a few lads in UCC so we know them well.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved