Limerick selector Donal O’Grady hoping Treaty emulate 2007 Croke Park triumph over Waterford

Throughout the ups and downs of their hurling rivalry with Waterford, wins have not come much sweeter for Limerick than the 2007 All-Ireland semi-final.

That summer got underway with the most dramatic of Munster Championships. Sparks flew in ‘Semple-gate’ when Cork and Clare met in Thurles. The Rebels came out on top, but were bested by Waterford, 5-15 to 3-18 in an epic.

On the other side of the draw, Limerick needed extra-time in the second replay to eventually see off Tipp.

But the provincial campaign was eventually capped by a one-sided final, as the Déise hammered the Treaty, 3-17 to 1-14 with Dan Shanahan running amok.

Justin McCarthy’s charges looked finally set to launch an assault on the All-Ireland title.

However, they ran into a rejuvenated Limerick side just five weeks later, and the tables had well and truly turned, as Richie Bennis’ underdogs stunned the country with a 5-11 to 2-15 triumph.

“It would have been [the best day of my Limerick career], most definitely,” recalls Donal O’Grady.

“I think Kerry had played Monaghan before it in the football and that was a cracker and then we came out on the pitch just after that.

“I’ll always remember Waterford players were walking around and Richie Bennis just came over and he said, ‘Lads, in we go to the dressing room, today is going to be our day’ and it’s funny, it was the first thing I thought of after the match actually, Richie saying that. Like obviously every manager’s going to say that anyway but he just gave us that sense of calmness, would you believe – Richie gave us that sense of calmness!

“That was an amazing day. Shaughs (Andrew O’Shaughnessy) and Donie Ryan and Brian Begley just had a great day at the office that day and that was a very, very good Waterford team and obviously, goals got us over the line because as the clock was moving on, they were crawling their way or creeping their way back, getting closer and closer to us but we just managed to hold on.

“That was a brilliant, brilliant day because we weren’t expected to win it which made it all the sweeter.”

Thirteen years on and history repeats itself – the two Munster counties meet in the All-Ireland series once more, weeks after playing in the Munster final.

This time around, it is the men in green and white that claimed provincial honours.

O’Grady is no longer on the field of play, having retired after the 2015 season. But he will be on the side-line, and marvels at how much the sport has advanced in the last five years.

“From looking at the lads from the outside as supporter for a couple of years after I finished, I was kind of looking at them, the physique, the speed they’re going at now, getting faster and faster and I was kind of questioning would I ever be able to mix it inside there,” he said.

“Then when you see them up close at training and I suppose the whole scientific approach to training now has gone to another level as well. All that is incorporated into Paul Kinnerk’s methods with training. It’s just all a totally new level for me, looking in anyway, and obviously other counties are at that level as well.

“You see the expense involved in running a senior set-up now compared to seven, eight, 10 years ago, there’s a lot more, so much more involved now.

“The players keep raising the bar in the hurling championship and thank God the GAA are moving with it and willing to put the resources in, because some of the games like are just spectacular to watch and the power of these guys and the pace and the skill, everything that goes with it, it’s just a pleasure to watch.

“Obviously you’re looking back and there’s great players that have gone 10 years ago and 20 years ago but I just think hurling is in a good place at the moment and thank God Limerick are there or thereabouts.”

Watch Limerick vs Waterford live on Sky Sports Mix from 2:30pm Sunday.

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