Limerick hurling selector, Donal O'Grady.
Limerick hurling selector, Donal O'Grady. 

O'Grady buzzing about Limerick's hive mind

By John Harrington

This Limerick hurling team is commonly described as a machine because all its moving parts work so well in unison together.

They play the game with a hive mind. When a player wins possession, he invariably knows the likely movement patterns of his team-mates around him, which is why Limerick so often play their way out of trouble or into opportunity with a combination of quick, accurate short-passing and off the shoulder runs.

This isn’t something to just develops organically. According to Limerick team selector, Donal O’Grady, it’s a game-sense they’ve honed through a combination of good coaching and hard-work.

“There's a great understanding and a hurling brain there among an awful lot of these guys,” says O’Grady.

“Going back to Paul Kinnerk, he's been involved with the team since 2017 and when you've that continuity there and that competitiveness, it does create that easy on the eye hurling that you saw in the semi-final in Croke Park at stages or in Páirc Uí Chaoimh a couple of weeks before that.

“Yes, it looks really good at times and if it does break down it's how we react to it. It can be a high-risk game at times but I think the lads are very comfortable playing it. And please God we can continue it and it will be enough to get us over the line on Sunday."

Limerick aren’t just a very talented and well-coached group of players, they’re also a very motivated one, and their team-spirit is very apparent in the manner they play for each other.

The atmosphere around the team is a one for all and all for one culture, and O’Grady has played a big part in that.

The Limerick players in a huddle before the All-Ireland SHC semi-final against Waterford.
The Limerick players in a huddle before the All-Ireland SHC semi-final against Waterford.

In his playing days he was a very popular Limerick captain both for his ability to lead by deed on the pitch, but also support his team-mates in whatever way he could off it.

That arm around the shoulder approach is something he now also brings to the current set-up.

“I would be that kind of guy anyway,” he says. “I would be very conscious of maybe how players are going and how theyr'e feeling because I'm a firm believer that if you don't have a smile on your face then you're not going to perform to the best of your ability, so I try and watch out for them things and add my experience that I had as a player to these younger lads as well. They're great lads and most of them are well able to manage themselves.

“Just add that to that environment at training where we constantly push them to try to be the best players they can be and we're lucky enough that that's the environment they want to be in.

“So, at the moment, to be honest, from time to time there are issues but in general it's easy enough to motivate these fellas because they just want to go to the next week and the next week and please God keep up their run of good form.”

O’Grady himself has always been a solid man both on and off the pitch. There are no airs and graces, he’s a likeable, down to earth sort of guy.

The current Limerick team is well stocked with players of a similar character, and he believes himself this humility has been a big part of their success in recent years.

“You have to be humble and grounded,” he says. “With the level of competition in the hurling championship at the moment we're probably in a golden era. There's really a lot of top teams that could catch you if you lower your guard a bit at all.

“We've seen that with the different pairings in the All-Ireland Finals for the last number of years. There's more and more teams popping up and getting there, which is great for hurling.

“We're fortunate enough and privileged to be in the Final on Sunday, but, again, the way these guys look at it, past success is put to the side which is great. They always look to the next game.

“I know that might sound like a cliche that most counties come out with, but in fairness it's the only way you can look at it mentally because if you take your guard down here and you will pay the price for it.”