Nearly a week on, the acute disappointment of Limerick’s exit from the All-Ireland hurling championship is slowly subsiding, although we have no doubt that for the players and team management the pain of defeat will not be going away any time soon. Too much has been invested – emotionally and physically – for that to be the case.
What, though, are we left with after an epic summer? Plenty, is the answer – both on and off the pitch. What we need to do now is build on the feelgood factor generated by our wonderful hurlers. They were vanquished by the better team on the day at Croke Park, but with the right attitude and approach they have it in them to raise our county to even greater heights next summer.
The inescapably sad fact is that, between now and then, more Limerick people will go to their eternal reward without seeing the county end that barren stretch of 40 long years without the ultimate prize. But it is pleasing to see so many in the county focusing on the positives. It did the heart good to see close on 40,000 Limerick fans getting behind the senior and minor teams. No doubt about it, we have the best support in the country.
Let nobody now undermine what has been achieved, for even a cursory glance at the history of Limerick hurling reveals that campaigns ending in heartbreak have frequently been followed by a round of recriminations. Already there is a feeling out there – encapsulated by a letter on this page – that what put paid to the hurlers this time was an overload of media hype. It wasn’t the Clare hurlers that put paid to Limerick’s chances, according to some – it was the Limerick Leader and Live 95FM, by virtue of their over-enthusiastic build-up. The Leader shouldn’t have interfered with the focus of the players by interviewing them, according to this logic: we should have allowed the team to come in under the radar and waited until the All-Ireland was won before getting the notebooks and the tape recorders out to detail the views of our players. According to one correspondent who contacted us this week, an unnamed former Limerick hurler is of the view – following Sunday’s defeat – that “the Leader should be burned before big Limerick hurling matches”.
In considering that judgment, let us remember the following: the game of hurling throughout the city and county has enjoyed a spectacular summer, with any amount of youngsters enthralled by the scenes they witnessed at the Gaelic Grounds when the Munster final was one. In sporting Limerick, where rugby and soccer in particular have huge support, the local GAA county board must be delighted with the progress made. The more interest in Gaelic games, the better chance we have of producing the stars we need to reach the summit at Croke Park.
Thanks to the exploits of 2013, we have new local sporting heroes and the Leader has no apologies to make for covering them prominently in Limerick’s newspaper of record. In any case, the interviews conducted for last week’s extensive match preview were done on a media night organised by the local GAA, attended also by many national media representatives.
The fact is that talented players simply did not do themselves justice, but they can and will come again.