People keep asking Conor Cooney about 2013. "I keep telling them we have it in the back of our minds - we’re not looking back, we’re looking forward," says the St Thomas man.
They keep asking as that was the year the club won its first ever AIB All-Ireland Club Hurling Championship with victory over Kilcormac-Killoughey. On St. Patrick's Day at Croke Park, the Galway side get the chance to double their titles when they face Ballyhale Shamrocks.
While that 2013 is not in their thoughts, it and other days the more seasoned St Thomas players have experienced at Croker will certainly affect how they prepare for the game.
"There were a couple of questions about the sod, about boots, the best boots to wear, things like that," says Cooney of the club's greener players.
The younger lads there, they have great heads on them, very level headed. We're lucky, we got out for a puck around there [at Croke Park] - we got used to the surroundings a small bit.
There’s still a good core of the lads who were there in 2013 and there’s a few of the younger guys who’ve really come on and made a big impact as well.
There’s lots of guys, Eanna, Shane, Fintan Burke, Cian Mahony, David Sherry is another lad who was on the periphery. So there’s younger guys who have come on and made a big difference to us.
We’ve experienced it and we’ve been there but there are guys who were looking on when they were younger and they didn’t have the chance and they’re probably relishing this as an opportunity now so it’s a good mix of experience and youth in our side.
Experience was added to the manager Kevin Lally's backroom team last year with the introduction of former Limerick manager TJ Ryan. Cooney says that Ryan has been a valuable addition to the group, a new ingredient to spice up the St Thomas mix.
"He’s a great character with great man-management skills, he’d always be talking to the lads and he’s great craic.
"He has vast experience and he’s been doing a lot of training with us, bringing game-specific drills, things like that. Even his matchday management would be a big plus for us, he’s seen moves and switches and tactical stuff and that’s a massive plus for us."
Cooney will captain the club this weekend. There's the odd extra responsibility like talking to club officers about what his team requires but the honour does not weigh heavy due to having leaders all over the field.
That he may have to give a winning speech has crossed the 26-year-old's mind but not dominated it.
"You do have to think about the people you’re going to thank because the effort that goes in at club level especially - there are so many volunteers who do so much work for us, we’re lucky enough that we’re the people who go out and represent them on the pitch.
"We’re carrying a lot of pride so you do have to acknowledge that."
St Thomas’ Conor Cooney ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Club Championship Final taking place at Croke Park on Sunday, March 17th. Having extended their sponsorship of both Club and County for another five years in 2018, AIB is pleased to continue its sponsorship of the GAA Club Championships for a 29th consecutive year. For exclusive content and behind the scenes action throughout the AIB GAA & Camogie Club Championships follow AIB GAA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Photo by Sportsfile