DAVID Limrick has travelled the long road to the top.
The Castlehaven captain might have two county titles to his name from 2012 and ’13, but he has had to endure more than his fair share of pain on the way.
That’s why he appreciates the big occasions more than most, and they don’t come much bigger than a county senior football championship semi-final against local rivals O’Donovan Rossa this weekend.
Add in that the Haven full back is marrying Jacqueline Hazel – sister of Rossa defender Daniel Hazel – in December and that Limrick also works in Skibbereen, with Spearline Labs, and Sunday’s derby semi-final in Páirc Uí Rinn becomes an even bigger event, but the experienced 29-year-old is keen to distance himself from the derby factor.
‘You have to separate yourself from the fact it’s a derby against Skibbereen,’ Limrick stated.
‘If you get caught up in all the hype that is around the place at the moment it will definitely detract from your performance. It is important to stay in your own bubble with the team and concentrate on your own performance.
‘I think the fact that we are playing Skibbereen is more for the supporters than anything else. We are just concentrating on the semi-final and getting it right. It doesn’t matter who we are playing. The reward for the winner is still the same regardless of the opposition.’
The rewards for the winner are great – a county final appearance and local bragging rights – and while Limrick is just focussed on the game itself and nothing else, he does admit that his injury problems of the past have given him a greater appreciation of playing on the big stage.
‘I joined the panel in 2004 and the first semi-final I played was in 2011,’ Haven’s Mr Dependable said.
‘There were a lot of years when there was no reward for the effort, so it makes it all the more sweeter now, having been through what I was. The younger fellas now might not appreciate yet how much winning a county means to the fellas who have been there for a while.’
Back in the late noughties Limrick suffered with a knee injury for over three years, and it was bad luck as it came on the back of an impressive U21 spell with Cork.
He won three Munster U21s (2005 to ’07), and was centre back on the team that won the 2007 All-Ireland final – a side that also included Michael Shields, Eoin Cadogan, Fintan Goold, Paul Kerrigan, Colm O’Neill and Daniel Goulding, as well as his Haven teammate Seanie Cahalane.
Who knows what inter-county future lay ahead for the talented defender that Brian Hurley rates as the best marker he’s ever played against.
But then disaster struck. That knee injury.
The knee cap in his right knee was out of place, perhaps as a result of when he dislocated that knee cap while in secondary school in Skibbereen. It robbed Limrick of three seasons of football.
‘I had trouble with my knee in 2008, the year after we won the All-Ireland with Cork. It took a long time to get it sorted,’ Limrick explained.
‘I played away from 2008 to the start of 2010 but I was only at about 60 or 70 per cent. The more you do that, the more of a toll it takes on you. It’s not good to be playing when you’re not at full strength.
‘I had four operations on the same knee with Tadhg O’Sullivan in Waterford. Eventually we got it right. I had one big operation that kept me out for 15 months, from the start of 2010 until well into 2011. The knee has been very good since.’
Limrick explained: ‘My knee cap was out of place so I needed patella realignment to get it realigned, and there were a few other loose bodies inside there as well.
‘If it was cruciate injury it would have been a lot more clear-cut because you can have your surgery and then start your rehab, but this dragged on. I had key-hole surgery a couple of times at the start to sort it out but that didn’t work, so then I had to undergo the big operation to get the knee cap realigned.’
So far, so good for the Haven full back who has become a cornerstone in the team’s defence over the last few years.
He is one of the real leaders of this Haven team, a man who commands respect and attention when he speaks in the dressing-room so when he says Castlehaven must improve for the semi-final against O’Donovan Rossa this weekend, then his teammates will listen.
‘We definitely have to up it on Sunday from our performance against Ballincollig. We have been involved in a few semi-finals (2011, 2012 and 2013) and you know that it doesn’t matter who you are playing, just that your team is in the best form possible for what lies ahead,’ Limrick said.
‘The only time I have seen Skibbereen this year was when they beat us in the league in Castlehaven. They were very impressive that day. You could get a good vibe off the players that they are going well. They are top of the league and in the semi-final of the county so we know what to expect.’
Statement of intent
But the Haven are in fine form themselves, coming off the back of their quarter-final win against reigning champions Ballincollig in Dunmanway. That was a line in the sand moment, a statement of intent from the Haven men, who are now favourites for the county.
‘It was a positive performance. Ballincollig are a very good team and they have the best backs of any team in the county. They played well against us and we needed to be on top form to win,’ Limrick said.
‘It’s almost worth more to win a game like that then progressing to the next round because you have to dig deep and that was a battle. We can take a lot from the fact that we responded in the second half when they came within a point. That was very encouraging.’
Limrick is also taking positives from the mood in the Haven camp as they are making the right noises ahead of Sunday.
Last year was disappointing. Carbery Rangers ended their reign as champions at the fourth round stage, and Castlehaven had to watch on as the business end played out without them.
‘We didn’t deserve to beat Carbery Rangers last year. We have no complaints. We were beaten by the better team. Hopefully that will prove to be beneficial because it might gives fellas more hunger again,’ Limrick said.
‘The few years on the go were bound to take their toll and that’s probably what happened last year. We were knocked out early last season so we had a good break from it, and in hindsight it was a help to us.’
Also a help was the appointment of Jim Nolan as manager.
‘It makes a difference because players have to prove themselves again. In 2013 when Finbarr Santry came in it had the same effect,’ Limrick added.
Limrick has had to prove himself in his comeback from that knee injury, and has done in style, and he and Castlehaven will need to prove themselves once more in Páirc Uí Rinn this Sunday against O’Donovan Rossa.