By Damian Dolan
Lancashire hurling manager Stan Murray-Hession has urged his players to focus on the present ahead of their Lory Meagher Cup final with Leitrim on Saturday (12pm), and not dwell on last year’s painful defeat to Sligo.
Lancashire saw a first-ever championship trophy snatched from their grasp by Sligo 12 months ago, with Kevin Gilmartin scoring the match winning goal just two minutes from time.
“Last year is gone, it’s done and dusted. If we win on Saturday it won’t change last year’s result,” Murray-Hession told the Irish World.
“It won’t alter the fact that Sligo are on the roll of honour and are in the Nicky Rackard this year.”
He added: “What you can do is make a decision to impact the present. Fellas’ work effort and commitment, and sticking to the plan we want to employ on the day. They’re the things that are important.
“If we don’t do that we won’t have a chance. That’s how you effect a change in the present.”
Lancashire edged out Leitrim in the sides’ group meeting in Manchester (0-20 to 1-15), but Murray-Hession says Martin Cunniffe’s Leitrim are a “formidable” outfit.
To book their place in the final, Leitrim beat a good Fermanagh side by five points. The same Fermanagh side which inflicted a four-point defeat on Lancashire.
“They’ve improved since we turned them over,” said Murray-Hession.
“They never give up; they’re never beaten. They’ll go right to the 75th minute. They’ve a great unity and belief.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we go in as underdogs.”
Lancashire are also not the only ones with recent experience of finals day at Croke Park – Leitrim reached the Lory Meagher decider in 2017 only to lose out to Warwickshire by 0-17 to 0-11.
“We’re delighted to be back at Croke Park, but we know we have real battle on our hands,” said Murray-Hession.
“If we’re one per cent off the mark we’ll be annihilated. Leitrim are a serious outfit; they’re laced with exceptionally talented hurlers.”
Joint manager when Warwickshire won the Lory Meagher in 2013 – augmented by players from Lancashire – Murry-Hession has also tasted Croker final defeat with Manchester’s Fullen Gaels in the junior club in 2013 and 2015.
“The sweet taste of victory lasts for a significantly shorter time than the mental torture of a defeat,” he said.
“I can’t describe the disappointment of losing an All-Ireland final – the empty hollow feeling. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before. The culmination of a season’s work, effort and commitment.”
If Lancashire do prevail, it will be an extraordinary achievement for a county which branched out on its own in 2014, but had to wait another three years to claim its first championship victory.
The county only entered the national league in 2018, and duly won Div 3B in its first year.
To reach the Nicky Rackard would be a monumental feat.
“We’re now regarded as a competitive team in championship hurling and that’s the thing I’m most proud of,” said the Lancashire boss, who comes from Malahide in Dublin.
“To win any national league is a phenomenal achievement, but to win one at your first attempt was hugely satisfying. That will live long in the memory.”
He added: “But it’s the players who deserve the plaudits, not me. They’re the ones who get us there and put their bodies on the line week in, week out and make the sacrifices we have to make.”