The fact that the Liam MacCarthy Cup will not be going home with the All-Ireland final winners on Sunday evening will certainly add to the surreal atmosphere at Croke Park.
GAA president John Horan confirmed the precautionary step last week, as the association continue with their efforts to keep the spread of coronavirus at bay. “The cups will not be leaving Croke Park,” said Horan. “They’ll be retained in Croke Park. It’s our concern that the cups will be a focus of crowds gathering and extra social activity going on around the cups.”
But some players feel that such a provision is a step too far.
“I don’t think that is necessary. Whether ourselves or Waterford win, I think it will be hugely disappointing if you couldn’t bring the trophy home with you,” said Limerick’s Tom Morrissey.
“Obviously we’re training together three times a week as it is, we’re going out together playing in a match. We’re going to be playing against 15 to 20 other players as well from Waterford and they’re likewise. So whichever team is victorious on the day you’d imagine that they should be allowed to hold the trophy together if they’re allowed do all of that.”
It all adds to the unique build-up to the December All-Ireland final, which lacks the usual fanfare.
“We just kind of accept it that that’s not going to be the case this year. We’ve known that from the outset this year going to even play our first match after lockdown, that the razzmatazz of the championship wasn’t going to be as it was in previous years as we knew it,” Morrissey continued.
“We just got on with it so it hasn’t really….you know, we won the semi-final and we weren’t thinking, ‘Jeez, wouldn’t it be great if we had an All-Ireland with a full stadium, like it was in 2018 for us’. We knew what it was going to be for us this year and we’re happy to accept that that is the case, that there won’t be any of that.”
And the empty stands remove nerves for the players, allowing them to hit higher levels.
“Going out against Galway, definitely it was a bit more relaxed,” he explained.
“I didn’t know whether to put it down to playing in an empty stadium but that would generate increased nerves, especially on match day, that was one thing I definitely felt that it is that bit more relaxed.
“You’re able to get your feel for the game that bit easier. Those nerves aren’t there. You could see that in the players as well the way we’re playing. There is a lot more composure on the ball. Games are high scoring. The fact that it’s an empty stadium allows for it to be that bit more relaxed and composed on the ball and you can see that in the performances.”
Making hay while the sun shines
Limerick hurling is enjoying a remarkable period of success, winning successive National League and Munster titles since their last All-Ireland.
But Morrissey and Co are keen to keep their heads down, and focus on what is next.
“There’s no denying the last few years have been unreal for Limerick hurling considering the lack of success that was there in the years before,” he said.
“It’s one you don’t tend to reflect on when you’re in the middle of your career. More for a time when I’m retired and I’m going to look back on my Limerick career. I’ll then decide did it exceed my expectations.
“At the moment, current focus is living in the ‘now’ and winning every game and every trophy that is there to be won each year we go out, in each competition we play in.”
Such success has the Treaty squad assured of themselves, as they aim for a second All-Ireland title in three seasons.
“I think we’ve been so consistent this year,” Morrissey added.
“We won all our league games and we’ve managed to do the same come championship. That belief is just instilled in us now, you kind of saw it the last day against Galway and in the Munster final in the last quarter against Waterford also. That game was going down to the wire and this team just had the belief and the character to pull it out of the bag and to get the result that we needed on both days.”
Watch Limerick vs Waterford in the All-Ireland final live on Sky Sports Mix from 2:30pm Sunday.
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