THE heartbreak was written all over the faces of the senior footballers as they stood disconsolate on the field in Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday watching Cork lift the Munster title - another case of 'what might have been' as Limerick's famine now stretches to 114 years.
A blistering first half display saw Limerick race into a 0-8 to 1-2 interval lead in the Munster final, with just a hotly-disputed penalty saving Cork's blushes. With 15 minutes to play the sides were level, but Cork were to deny a gallant Limerick a first title since 1896.
"One hundred and 13 years doesn't bother me - all I know is that I am playing for 11 years and I haven't won one," said Limerick's midfield master John Galvin.
"This is the third year now - in 2004 we should have taken Kerry and now there is 2009 and I personally think we should have taken Cork today."
Another moral victory was not good enough for Galvin.
"I have been in nearly teams for years," he sighed.
"The problem with nearly teams is that they die. How many nearly teams are there, look at Fermanagh, Wexford..."
Galvin now wants his side to re-group for the qualifiers on the weekend of July 25-26.
"You need to win something to keep up the spirit. We are just after losing the match and I am a bit down, but I hope we can re-group."
Two rounds of the qualifiers remain before Limerick will find out their opposition in the round four draw on Sunday evening, July 19.
The big name possibilities are Kerry, Derry, Monaghan and Donegal along with Down, Laois, Longford, Wexford, Roscommon, Tipperary, Sligo, Clare, Westmeath, Meath, Wicklow and Cavan.
"It is going to be hard to pick ourselves up," said a clearly disappointed John Galvin.
"It would be terrible to leave the season like that and not put in a good fight for the qualifiers. I hope we can re-group and pick ourselves up. We deserve to be in the last 12 in the qualifiers. We believed if we went out there today and performed and stuck with Cork we could take them," the Croom man said with another rueful shake of his head.
"It didn't turn out the way we had expected - we were total underdogs going in there today, but we knew that if we went out and performed we would be there at the end of the match with a chance of taking them.
"We performed to a certain extent, but I still think we could have done better - there were a lot of chances missed that we should have taken.
"We dominated the first half and could have put up more scores and had a bigger lead," he recalled.
"It's a cruel game - Cork got the small bit of the rub of the green that is needed. It's very hard to maintain the intensity high for 70 minutes, but when you are dominating we should have put up a bigger lead.
"Unfortunately we didn't take advantage of our time on top and Cork got a goal from the penalty against the run of play."
Stephen Lucey and Mark O'Riordan were two of the Limerick heroes in defence yesterday.
The Croom colleagues now face just a six-day turn around as they prepare for next Saturday's All-Ireland hurling qualifiers. The two dual players will be part of Justin McCarthy's plans for the trip to Wexford Park to face Colm Bonner's home side. The Limerick v Wexford hurling game is now likely to form a double-header with Wexford's football qualifier against Roscommon.