Limerick’s Wayne McNamara could barely talk in the Semple Stadium tunnel after yesterday’s energy sapping and heart-breaking Munster SHC defeat to Tipperary.
But even in the agony of defeat, McNamara still found room for optimism.
“Absolutely gutted,” he whispered. “So close. But at least we’re on the right track. Just that things didn’t go right for us at the right time. I suppose that’s the way it goes — disgusted.”
For 55 minutes, with the likes of Wayne McNamara risking life and limb, Limerick had been the better team. Then the Tipperary cavalry arrived and the tiring visiting side were overrun.
“We knew we were going to have to work our socks off and we did. Maybe we had to work so hard, we just couldn’t keep it going to the end. But we gave an honest account of ourselves, we did our best but things just didn’t go right.
“The lads Tipperary brought on made a big difference but that’s what you’re up against. We came here to win and are gutted that we didn’t. We are absolutely gutted. But this is an honest bunch of lads who work hard in training. We’ll be back.”
His manager John Allen concurred — the strength and depth of the Tipperary bench was the gamebreaker.
“For me, that made the difference. Bringing on Bonner Maher, Shane McGrath — we saw Eoin Kelly going off and it looks like they’re under big pressure, but no. I’d be hugely proud of the effort we put it because it was heroic for most of the game. They just had a stronger bench and that was the difference between the teams.”
The early intensity of Limerick seemed to catch Tipperary by surprise — but not John Allen.
“I thought we were going to win the game and I went to the bookies yesterday to prove it. Our training in the past six weeks had been really good. We had a game last Friday night, a green versus white we’ll call it, where a number of altercations took place — that was the way our training had gone all along — with real intensity. Even on Wednesday night the team wasn’t a foregone conclusion, there were players who certainly weren’t sure that they were going to get on the team. I’m extremely proud of the team. They were heroic. But this game is about winning.”
The last quarter collapse was what cost Limerick, outscored 1-11 to 0-3 and losing a seven-point lead in the process.
“Could we have closed it out when we were six of seven points up? There was still 10 or 12 minutes left and in championship hurling that’s not enough of a lead. We have seen teams turn around leads like that loads of times.
“A number of players, top quality players, came off their bench. They brought fresh legs.”
Still, positive signs for what is a young side, none younger than teenage championship debutant Shane Dowling. “Shane Dowling is a super hurler, has a huge career ahead of him. Declan Hannon has only two weeks training done — the next day he’ll have six weeks training done so he’ll be fitter. We wanted to win and I thought we would. Of course it will bring us on but championship days are all about winning — the next day now it’s knockout. That performance is great for confidence. The Limerick public couldn’t fail to be impressed by the quality and I would certainly say that game will be very good for them.”
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