Diarmaid Byrnes has said he’s glad he didn’t win Hurler of the Year in 2023.
The half back won the award for his outstanding performances in 2022 but having been nominated again in 2023, he was delighted that the award went to his Patrickswell club-mate Aaron Gillane instead.
Speaking on Wednesday at the launch of the 2024 Allianz National Hurling League, Byrnes hailed Gillane for his ‘unbelievable consistency’ throughout the season, describing him as a ‘truly deserved’ winner of the accolade.
Gillane’s triumph meant that, along with Byrnes and their fellow club-mate Cian Lynch, Patrickswell GAA club has the unique distinction of holding three hurlers of the year in their ranks.
The 30-year-old admits that between himself, Lynch and Gillane, they appreciate the enormity of this achievement despite the fact that it’s natural to brush away talk of how special it is.
“It’s kind of an Irish thing, you don’t give yourself too much praise,” he said.
“Even if someone turns around and says ‘that’s a nice suit,’ or ‘that’s a nice dress,’ you kind of turn around and say ‘ah stop it’s not.’
“It’s that kind of a way, that kind of an Irishness between the three of us.
“We’d kind of brush it off and say ‘aw yeah, it’s great,’ but it really is. It’s special for us,” he added.
“I was actually sickened I was nominated this year,” Byrnes continued.
“Because I was like ‘Jesus I actually don’t want to win it.’
“Even though I knew I wasn’t going to because of Aaron’s performances, but you never know with these kinds of things, but I actually didn’t want to.”
“Aaron really truly deserved it. He was absolutely class the whole year, his consistency was unbelievable.”
“For that reason, it was nice for the three of us.”
Byrnes says that himself and Lynch and Gillane are delighted to continue Patrickswell’s rich tradition in Limerick hurling, and says above all else, they’ve enjoyed the impact their success had on their parishioners and coaches.
“Patrickswell is very small. You drive through it in less than a minute. A shop, a few pubs and a hairdresser.
“There’s been a great history of Patrickswell people contributing to Limerick hurling and that’s what we look at, how can we continue that.
“It’s where we started, where we’ll finish. We’ve great friends in the club. It has been great.
“There was some great stuff in the club around that time, the club got great recognition, some of our past trainers got a great buzz out of it. I’m a bit older than the lads but we were on the same teams up along.
“I could harp on about it all day, but the club is something special for me,” he added.
With Limerick in pursuit of a fifth All-Ireland title in a row this year, the pressure will inevitably ramp up but Byrnes says that they have the experience to deal with it.
“I know it’s obviously the elephant in the room regarding the media perspective. I know my own family at home over the Christmas period, you jump into people and it’s, ‘Jaysis, go on now, Byrnsie,’ or whatever, stupid little stuff, pub talk or whatever.
“We build up an immunity with regards dealing with those situations,” says Byrnes, who works as a business development executive with DHL.
“There’s experience in the group and it will definitely stand to us this year, as it did last year and the previous year.
“Every team will get the same required attention, whether it be before the game or after the game.
“We’ll be analysing. Our own individual preparation and recovery, I know I won’t be any different anyway, and the rest of the group will be in the same boat, which is good.
“Again, looking forward to the championship, looking forward to the challenge, but we’ll get the league out of the way first.
As for what it is that keeps the team motivated, Byrnes says it’s a mix of competitiveness and enjoyment.
“For me personally, it is just enjoyment.
“I know a lot of lads might be satisfied with winning whatever, but I don’t think it is within this group.
“There is a crazy competitiveness. I know dealing with Hego or Peter Casey, if we are heading away somewhere or in a hotel for pre-game, if you find a table tennis table, something like that or if we were in a school, which was common during Covid, when you’d go to schools instead of hotels, we’d go into the hall to play basketball or something.
“The boys would be killing one another before the match – mad stuff altogether, but very enjoyable.
“That competitiveness has grown in us over the last number of years.
“As athletes we are in the game, there is no other way to describe it other than top officials describing us as GAA players, but we are athletes. That competitiveness grows in athletes, it is just a natural thing, to want more, to be better everyday.
“It is competitiveness and just enjoying it. You have to enjoy the moments, and I think we are.”
Pictured are players from last year’s Allianz Football Division 1A Final, Limerick hurler, Diarmaid Byrnes, and Kilkenny hurler, Richie Reid at the launch of the 2024 Allianz Hurling League. The Allianz Hurling League provides an opportunity for all players to claim their spot in the county panel for the season ahead. The return of inter-county action, after a five-month break, also affords the teams competing a chance to showcase their strengths and lay down a marker to their county rivals.