Adrian O’Brien is certainly looking forward to patrolling the sidelines of Semple Stadium this Saturday.
The Limerick native was faced with the unprecedented conundrum of seeing two clubs he’s currently coaching clash in the Munster Senior Club Semi-Final a fortnight ago when Ballyea and St Finbarr’s met for the very first time at competitive level..
“As such, there is a huge sense of relief that he can finally get back down to work after stepping back from both the Clare and Cork champions ahead of their Cusack Park bout.
“It has definitely been a strange few weeks. That said, the two boys have been brilliant, both Ger [Cunningham] and Robbie [Hogan] and both sets of players and clubs too.
“You don’t envisage something like that happening at the start of the year but just the way it came together I suppose was just a very unique situation.
“So I watched the game from home. I wanted to remove any emotion from it and I watched it from the comfort of the house and then went into see Na Piarsaigh and Ballygunner afterwards.”
Knowing that regardless of the result in Ennis, he would still be preparing for the Munster Final provided an emphasis on Ballyea’s potential opponents and overall he was impressed by what he saw at first hand.
“The first half between Ballygunner and Na Pairsaigh was just phenomenal, the ball speed, the intensity around the middle third, the skillset, even the field itself was immaculate. And I felt that the hurling complimented the grounds on the day as it was a great game of hurling with two very strong star-studded teams.
“Look, there’s no doubt about it that Ballygunner are favourites to win the All-Ireland again and were probably favourites before a ball was pucked for this year’s championship.
“They deserve that tag because they are the reigning champions and Na Piarsaigh are in the same category as they have done great things in Limerick, Munster and All-Ireland series over the last number of years. So it was always going to take top billing and it certainly lived up to expectations.
“From our perspective, we’re obviously going into the final as underdogs but to be totally honest, that doesn’t bother us at all.
“We’re used to playing in the Clare Championship where we hold the tag of favourites in every game and that can hold you down sometimes because if you lose, it’s a disaster and if you only win by three or four points, it can be seen as a negative as well because people were expecting more.
“So we’ll happily take the underdogs tag and see where it gets us on Saturday.”
Redemption is also a driving force according to O’Brien, having been humbled by the same opponents last November.
“Any day you put the jersey on and you ship a defeat by 17 points is a bad day at the office. No-one hurt more than the players and management and very rarely in life do you get a second chance and that’s what we have now which is a great thing.
“So we can’t do anything about history because it’s in the past but we do have a chance now to redeem ourselves to a level and that’s what we plan to do.”
Having also answered the call to join Brian Lohan’s backroom team for Clare in 2023, he’s not willing to apply for citizenship just yet but is certainly relishing the new challenge.
“It’s not my first time coaching at inter-county level as I was with the Limerick footballers for the past four years under Billy Lee. We had a great few years of growth going from Division 4 right up to Division 2 so when Billy left and I got the call to go in with the Clare hurlers, I was delighted to come on board.
“Obviously I’d know the club scene very well and the players fairly well and it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to because there are a great bunch of players there and a great honesty there too and they are the main ingredients when you’re getting involved with a team.
“All you want as a coach is to be involved with lads that are keen to work and keep their heads down so it’s a great challenge and I’m really looking forward to it.”