Limerick’s victory against Kilkenny in the All Ireland quarter-final in 2018 proved to be a defining moment in the season and Tom Morrissey was a central figure that day in Semple Stadium.
The Treaty men were leading by a point in the 65th minute when, in typical Kilkenny fashion, Richie Hogan sent a blistering shot past Nickie Quaid to send the sizeable Kilkenny following in Thurles into an absolute frenzy.
However, the response of the young Limerick side proved decisive. Morrissey scored a point immediately from the puckout and John Kiely’s men added two scores before Richie Leahy sent over the equalising score to ensure a frantic finish.
With both sides desperately searching for that winning score, it was Morrissey who popped up in his own half-back line to gather possession in injury time before soloing up the field and hitting a phenomenal point. Aaron Gillane added another free and the full-time whistle sounded. Cue euphoric celebrations from the supporters, players and management and all of a sudden, Limerick went from being somewhat of an unknown entity to serious title contenders.
For Morrissey, that game instilled the belief in the inexperienced team that they belonged among the top hurling teams in the country,
“Last year we had a lot of big moments throughout the season that maybe led to this team being successful in 2018 but that game is one that stands out, definitely. When Richie Hogan got the goal with five minutes to go, it was a real test for us of facing adversity. It just showed the character this team has and the resilience.
“We were an emerging team with an emerging belief but a victory like that against one of the traditional powerhouses of hurling really cemented that we belong at the top table and that we’re able to compete for silverware.”
Limerick go into Saturday’s All Ireland semi-final encounter with Kilkenny under an entirely different set of circumstances.
Since last July, they have lifted the Liam MacCarthy, the Allianz League trophy and the Munster Cup and they now find themselves as the favourites to beat Kilkenny, the team that have dominated the hurling landscape for more than a decade.
The 23-year-old insists that while the public perception of Limerick may have changed in the past year, the team remain just as grounded as they were against Kilkenny 12 months ago.
“All the hype that goes with being successful, as a group I think we deal very well with that. We remain focused on the job we have to do, whatever match we are playing, we can really separate ourselves from the public which is very important.
“We do hear the stories that are out there and what people are saying about us but we just remain focused on what we have to do and getting ourselves right, physically and mentally.”
Despite their notable success in 2019 so far, Limerick have also endured a mixed campaign, losing to both Cork and Tipperary during the Munster round-robin series before beating the Premier County comprehensively in the provincial decider last month.
Kiely has admitted that some of Limerick’s performances have been disappointing thus far and Morrissey agrees with his manager. He maintains that his side cannot afford any more inconsistencies or they will find themselves out of contention for back-to-back All Ireland titles.
“His analysis of it is right and the players felt that too. While we might have two titles under our belt, there has been an inconsistency there that we don’t want and there’s no room for any more because we’re in knockout championship, you’re season is over if you have another blip.
“It is something good to have going forward that there is room for improvement and something to concentrate on in preparing for these games. You have aspects of your game as an individual and as a team that you need to improve on.”