Many years ago two young Limerick boys travelled to Mosney together. They were Mossie Lawlor and Fiach O’Loughlin and there were half-backs on that occasion. “We were only nine or ten at the time,” O’Loughlin remarked.
Roll on 20 years and Mossie Lawlor and Fiach O’Loughlin are still lining out together. Saturday will see the pair feature at out-half and scrum half respectively for Shannon as the recently crowned AIB Cup champions try to knock Garryowen off their league perch and make it through to their fourth Division One final in five years.
This time last year, scrum half O’Loughlin was coming to terms with a semi-final defeat to Garryowen. He was Clontarf’s captain and Garryowen came away from Castle Avenue with an impressive 28-15 victory which proved to be O’Loughlin’s final game with the north Dubliners.
“I wanted to get a bit of experience elsewhere and had a great time with Clontarf but it was always my intention to return to Shannon. We have a great set-up here and it is great to train under Mick Galwey and Ian Sherwin, both of whom know so much about the game.”
Back now at Shannon after two seasons with ‘Tarf, the AIB Club international player is eager to gain revenge on Garryowen and in Lawlor and winger Stephen Kelly, he has two back-line colleagues of the highest order.
“It is fantastic to have Mossie outside me. He never stops shouting at me and then outside on the wing we have Stephen Kelly who never stops roaring at me to go long with my pass,” O’Loughlin said.
And referring to Kelly, who came to sporting prominence as a Gaelic footballer with Limerick, he added: “Stephen has come on a great deal this season. He is learning more and more and he has a big future in the game.”
Although they have won the Munster Senior Cup and AIB Cup this season as well as qualifying for the league play-offs, it has not been all plain sailing for Shannon.
Young out-half Tadhg Bennett dislocated his shoulder against Ballymena in February, putting him out for the rest of the season and O’Loughlin feels very sorry for his injured team-mate.
“Tadhg played a big part in getting us this far and we hope we can reward him by going a step further and reaching the final.”
Apart from his two years in Dublin, O’Loughlin has played with Shannon since the age of 8, winning caps with Munster and Ireland Schools as well as captaining the Ireland Under-19s in 2002.
His father Gerry is the current President of the Munster Branch and his mother Brigid is a former club PRO – indeed she set the standard which all others now follow.
Already the winner of three AIB League medals, five Munster Senior Cup medals and an AIB Cup medal, Fiach has enjoyed playing at Coonagh this season as Shannon’s regular home ground Thomond Park is being redeveloped.
“We have settled in at Coonagh very well and many of our opponents find it starnrge coming here. But neveretheless it will be great to get back to Thomond Park,” he admitted.
On Saturday’s head-to-head between himself and Garryowen number 9 Gerry Hurley, he said: “I always look forward to playing against good opposition. Gerry and I are very good friends and always have a laugh and a joke when we meet. But friendship goes out the door for the 80 minutes.”
Like everybody else, Fiach believes the all-Limerick semi-final will be very close. But what about the game between his old team Clontarf and table toppers Cork Constitution?
“I’d say that will be very close as well. It would be great for me to play against ‘Tarf in the final,” he joked without predicting the outcome.