David Reidy: Kildare experience helped hone hunger to make Limerick return

Limerick's David Reidy     Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Limerick's David Reidy Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

There was a time when David Reidy said his mentality was the reason why he was once dropped from the Limerick panel.

Now, his calm resilience has transformed him into a starter at 30 in a team of hurling greats.

The inner strength that flows from Dromin-Athlacca’s first-ever Celtic Cross recipient was never more tested than this time last year: All-Ireland final week 2022.

In a Friday night tune-up, both Kyle Hayes and Reidy collapsed to the ground clutching their legs in the space of three minutes.

Reidy didn’t move off the couch throughout a Saturday vigil spent with an ice machine strapped to his ankle and the TV diverting his stressed-out mind.

Stepping gingerly off the team bus the next day, he didn’t know if the ankle was in any shape to play a part until it held up through the warm-up.

“I went up for an innocuous little high-ball drill and my studs got caught in place and I just twisted the ankle,” says Reidy.

“I don't have the best of ankles but I was lucky enough, I strapped it up and adrenaline got me through.

“Kyle went down the same day with a bit of a hamstring injury as well so it was a weird feeling.

“But that’s the way it has to be, you need to push hard. You don’t take your foot off the gas.”

That it has taken him until the age of 30 to put back-to-back Championship starts together for Limerick reflects both the Treaty’s talent stockpile and Reidy’s bench impact.

Until this year’s Munster final, Reidy had just two Championship starts for his 10 seasons on the panel, along with another 24 substitute appearances.

After John Kiely took over as Limerick manager at the end of 2016, Reidy received a phone call bearing bad news. He wasn’t part of the Galbally man’s plans.

He wouldn’t be away from the inter-county shop window, though. He lined out with Kildare, where he was living and teaching, in the Christy Ring Cup alongside their headline recruit John Mulhall and David’s brother Michael.

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“Reflecting on it, I don’t think I’d be back here if I didn’t play with Kildare.

“It was a brilliant experience. I matured from it. I learned a lot of things. The training, the facilities, the way we were looked after, I couldn’t speak highly enough of it.”

His first competitive outing upon returning to the Limerick camp the following winter was his most nervy of all: a charity boxing event with Aaron Gillane facing him down from the opposite corner.

No doubt, Reidy hasn’t let the Hurler of the Year frontrunner forget the outcome. Promises to take it easy were forgotten within seconds before Reidy sent Gillane to the canvas in round two.

“He said it was a slip but it wasn’t,” says Reidy, still standing his ground, backed by the judges’ split-decision verdict. “It was a clean connection!”

Back in Reidy’s comfort zone, with a hurley in hand, he feels there’s more pressure coming off the bench than starting.

That hasn’t stopped him from becoming an expert in chipping over a crunch-time point, scoring in 13 of those 24 substitute showings.

What made last year’s ankle knock all the more stressful was that it came after a landmark three-point haul to close out a semi-final victory over Galway.

A hamstring injury this spring further delayed his shot at a starting spot but he made it stick as a late call-up for the Munster final against Clare, with a second-half exhibition of playmaking and point-scoring.

“I’m probably enjoying it now more than I ever was.

“When you're a sub coming on, you've only 10 minutes, 15 minutes, you have to make an impact. Whereas starting, you're going with the flow of the game for the whole thing.

“I'm lucky enough with my own mentality, I don't really put too much pressure on myself. I'm more nervous now speaking to ye than I was going out last Saturday (against Galway).”

With Reidy on from the start, they have no less of a bench boost, something he attributes as much to tactical nous as freshness.  

“John has mentioned it. It’s not even just the energy, it’s the structure they maintain and keep standards high, fresh legs running around, it’s mighty.”

Rather than last year’s ice-machine build-up, Reidy is hoping to revert to his usual pre-match preparations at the family farm and the nearby Morningstar River.

“We’re farming at home so I do a bit of work. Some lads think I don’t do anything – I’d like to disagree with them,” he laughs.

“It’s nice to have that switch, to go out on the farm for an hour or two, leave the phone inside and switch off. Don’t hear from anyone, go up the fields.

“I live close enough to (horse trainer) Enda Bolger’s there, I go down and sit in the river for a while. Nice and calm. Peace of mind.”

The perfect moment of stillness before the chaos of All-Ireland final Sunday.