Limerick gladiator Diarmaid Byrnes can't wait for Semple colosseum
By John Harrington
With 11,000 terrace tickets sold in just 11 minutes this morning, the Munster Hurling Final between Limerick and Clare is set to be a sell-out.
That’s music to the ears of Limerick defender, Diarmaid Byrnes, who loves nothing more than the roar of a packed house on the biggest days of all.
“No matter where I go I'm the sort of person who, if it's even a Munster League match, sell it out if you can or get the atmosphere going the best you can,” said Byrnes.
“Not that I thrive off it or need it or anything, but I train four or five nights a week pre-season for these days so why not let it be the best occasion it can be?
“Like a gladiator going into the Colosseum, he wants a packed stadium and wants it to be as intense as possible. That's the kind of individual that I am, I suppose.
“It was like down in Ennis the last day. The music was playing before the match and the crowd was roaring. You can't hear exactly, but I suppose the Clare lads were probably giving me a bit of abuse but it all feeds into the atmosphere.
“You'd would have presumed a Munster Final would be a sell-out, but whatever the occasion is we'll focus on ourselves and just enjoy the moment.”
There’s a serious buzz around the June 5 clash between two neighbouring counties who share a serious hurling rivalry as well as common border.
The two previous meetings this year in League and Championship were hotly contested affairs that both finished in draws, which has only served to heighten the anticipation ahead of the Munster Final.
Byrnes is happy to embrace the hype which is just as well because can’t really avoid it, working as he does in an AIB branch in Limerick city centre.
“There would be a lot of lads in with questions, but it's all good,” he says of the steady stream of hurling supporters who make a bee-line for him in the bank.
“Theyr'e all inquisitive, 'how's this lad going, how are you, how's training going, how's this, how's that?' It's all good, they're all Limerick supporters and I'm right in the heart of the city and you could meet anyone. You can see them coming a mile away with their Limerick tops on.
“It's all good, you'd enjoy it. That's the main thing, you can see the positive impact that we've had on Limerick in the last couple of years. And we feed off that as well.”
The temperature of both sets of supporters is likely to be fairly elevated before throw-in on June 5, but Byrnes himself will have little trouble keeping his cool.
He’s not the type of suffer from big-match nerves because he sees these contests as occasions to be relished rather than feared.
“I'd always be a relaxed person,” he says. “Whether it's the day before a game or day after a game, I wouldn't get too hyped up. It's important to enjoy the moment rather than think about what you're going to do after a game or four or five nights leading into the game dreaming about little things that could happen.
“This could happen, that could happen. It's better to just enjoy the moment, living in the present, and not think too far ahead. You can never predict the outcome. So live in the moment and enjoy it.”
That philosophy certainly seemed to work for Byrnes when Limerick and Clare drew in the Munster SHC three weeks ago.
He scored nine points on the day, seven frees, one ’65, and one from play, and it’s fair to say Limerick wouldn’t have snatched a draw without him, and not just because he converted the equalising free.
“It was fortunate enough they went over on they day,” says Byrnes of his performance.
“I won't be complacent and rest on my laurels and say I did this the last day. Your ego could take over if you did, but that won't be happening with me anyway, definitely not.
“I'll focus on my little routines before training, leading up to match-day. Little routines before training, on training days. Little routines before practicing frees or sidelines or whatever it is.
“Just work on the little things and try to improve them I suppose. I won't be dwelling on the past, just try to improve one or two more per cent each day for the next big occasion.”