by Declan Rooney
Limerick manager John Ryan is hoping that some of John Kiely’s hurling magic will have rubbed off on his team as they face a first TG4 Ladies All-Ireland junior final since 2010 against Louth this Sunday.
Kiely joined a star-studded panel in a 400-seat sold out fundraising breakfast for the Limerick Ladies team on Tuesday morning, where he rallied the troops ahead of Sunday’s decider.
And while the excitement in the county has subsided slightly following that famous victory for the hurlers over Galway on August 19, Ryan is intent on adding to the county’s success by claiming the West County Hotel Cup on Sunday.
“We’re pretty excited, the build-up has been good,” said Ryan. “There’s huge positivity about Limerick GAA now at the moment. We are getting massive feedback on that now from the players and supporters and they're delighted that we’re in Croke Park on Sunday as well.
“The breakfast morning at the Woodlands Hotel was a huge success for us. This was organised within two weeks and it was heartening to see the supporters and local businesses there to help us.
“Having so many of the county’s sport’s people there was brilliant. John (Kiely) passed on his best wishes to us. It’s an All-Ireland final and he's been through it at under-21s and senior and he's come out the other side of it.
“The one thing about it is that when you play sport, you play sport for enjoyment. You might not enjoy an All-Ireland final as a player until the final whistle goes, but he told us how important it is to deal with that occasion.”
Louth have defeated Limerick twice so far this year in the Lidl National League, including at the semi-final stage in Division 4.
Ryan conceded his side has been disregarded by many, but he says they are keen to be competitive.
“We were not expected to beat London in the semi-final and when we went down five points in that game we rallied and came back.
“Look, we're in an All-Ireland final and it's where you want to be at the end of the year. But we know what to expect from Louth. They’re the favourites and we're trying to build a squad for the future. It's a great place to be: Croke Park, All-Ireland final day; it’s where you want to be.”
With such an inexperienced team, Ryan made the bold move to call one of the county’s legendary stars, Dymphna O’Brien, out of retirement. She has previously broken Louth hearts with her match winning performance in the 2010 junior final, but Ryan sees her largely as a guiding hand for his side.
“Dymphna is back in out of retirement and she is a massive asset to us. Dymphna was one of one of the top players in the country and she still very dangerous and she can cause problems.
“But she’s in more or less back in to support the younger players. Especially on a day like this, coming up to Croke Park to unfamiliar surroundings we’ll be hoping that she will influence the players. She's been there a few times and she knows exactly what to expect.
“It’s great to be in Croke Park and an All-Ireland final but we have to be realistic as well. We’re coming from a low base and were trying to get our team to a certain level.
“We have a good united camp at the moment and it’s going well. We’re delighted that the girls have progressed and it’s all to play for on Sunday.”