To borrow a song title from the extraordinary Bruce Springsteen, these are better days for Limerick.
Those of us fortunate to have been present at two epic occasions not much more than 48 hours apart – Sunday’s Munster hurling final and the concert at Thomond Park on Tuesday by the man they call The Boss – will have a spring in our step this week. More than that, there is pride in our hearts after a week when Limerick itself took some giant steps forward on different fronts.
It was gratifying to see it acknowledged on RTE television and across the national media that Limerick hurling supporters are among the very best in the country. Perhaps it takes a team capable of winning things to really bring out the crowds and the county-wide fervour, but when they come, they arrive in floods.
That’s because 40 long years without All-Ireland success have done nothing to diminish the ardour felt by the people of Limerick – every nook and cranny of it – for the glorious game of hurling. The tradition runs far too deep for it to be any other way.
We have noted in this column recently that as a county we crave occasions to show the pride we feel in being Limerick people. When we have something big to celebrate – and the first Munster hurling championship won on local soil since Mackey’s greyhounds did the same in 1955 was certainly big – nobody does it better or with more feeling.
On Sunday at the Gaelic Grounds we saw scenes that will be burned in local memories for a lifetime, an outpouring of joy that took the breath away. A rejuvenated, talented and utterly committed team put Cork to the sword with nine points to spare. Granted, Limerick had an extra man in the second half, but there is compelling evidence that they would still have emerged victorious without that numerical advantage.
Perhaps we are in acute danger of getting carried away in the excitement of it all, but there is no question that these young men have it in them to achieve legendary status by winning big on the Croke Park stage in September. They will need luck and renewed application to the tasks ahead – as well as the invaluable experience of their calmly impressive manager John Allen – but shrewd judges are convinced that they are good enough. We can but hope and dream.
The Springsteen concert was a triumph of a different kind. It established Thomond Park as a venue fit for the biggest performers in the world.
The dominance of Dublin as the default location for inter-national stars on tour was challenged and the magnificent stadium completed less than five years ago was more than up to the task. We congratulate all those associated with bringing the concert here and we are glad that their faith and hard work was so triumphantly rewarded. We hope, too, that more great acts will follow suit. Perhaps U2 will be next on the Thomond Park stage?
On Tuesday, when Springsteen sang the moving My Hometown, he heard the words of a song he wrote nearly 30 years ago sung back at him with passion and pride. It put the seal on a big week for Limerick. Better days lie ahead, we hope.