LIMERICK will copperfasten its reputation as Ireland’s sporting capital as four of the city’s most successful sporting heroes lead the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade.
Munster hero John Hayes, transatlantic rower Sean McGowan, the first Irishman to row solo across the Atlantic, former GAA star Gary Kirby and former soccer manager Eoin Hand, the last man to lead Limerick to a league title in 1979/80, were last night unveiled as the 2011 Grand Marshals for Limerick’s St Patrick’s Day Parade.
It is the first time more than one person has led the parade, which is expected to draw over 70,000 people to the city centre on Thursday, March 17.
They will join more than 3,500 participants taking part in the parade, which will be the largest in the country.
And three days later, close to 1,000 musicians will descend on the city for the 41st Limerick International Band Competition - with 17 marching bands from across Limerick, Ireland, and the USA.
Other highlights of the St Patrick’s Day Parade include the carrying
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of a huge 40-foot flag to celebrate Limerick’s status as European City of Sport for 2011.
Fire breathers, stilt walkers and belly dancers are set to entertain the crowd, while there will entries to the parade from city sporting events including the Great Limerick Run, the European Duathlon Championships and the Irish Festival of Speed.
Limerick’s Military Entries will be led by the 12th Infantry Batallion from Sarsfield Barracks, while the city’s talented arts and community groups will showcase their talents with brightly coloured floats and entries.
Ireland’s largest tricolour will be carried by the boys from St Clement’s School, who have been selected as flag ambassadors for the city, while other entries will come from the Special Olympics, and the Centre Stage Theatre Group.
Speaking last night, Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Maria Byrne said she is thrilled four sporting heroes will lead the city’s St patrick’s Day parade.
“We’re all very proud of our sporting tradition in Limerick and it is only right that we have four of our wonderful sporting ambassadors to lead our hugely popular St Patrick’s Day parade in this, a special year for the city,” she said.
Both parades get under way at 12noon, with the St Patrick’s Day parade on Thursday, March 17, and the International Band Parade on Sunday, March 20.
For more information on the St Patrick’s Festival, visit www.limerick.ie/stpatricksfestival.