In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks at the importance of the GAA in Irish life
A couple of weeks ago Limerick played Dublin in the National Hurling League at Croke Park. This historic and now iconic stadium has played host to some of the most outstanding sporting occasions in Ireland.
Not too many Limerick supporters made the journey but, while speaking to some of them after the game, I got a huge sense from them of just how special it would be for Limerick hurling to return to the glory days.
All of those I spoke to, like myself, had no memories of the All Ireland win in 1973 other than watching the video of the game, but it tells you a fair bit about the desire and passion of Limerick supporters that, despite such little success, they are still dreaming of better days.
Little did people think back all those years ago that forty years would pass and Limerick would be still waiting for All Ireland success - the years have slipped by so fast and it appears the task of reaching our goal is growing even more difficult. So many people at various levels have worked so hard and it’s a great tribute to them that, despite very little success, they are still prepared to play such a vital part in their clubs.
The people working in our GAA clubs in Limerick have shown tremendous dedication over such a long time. They have played such a major part in their communities and by doing so have provided facilities that have benefited so many young boys and girls in our city and county.
It’s easy to take for granted the work that so many of these people do at so many levels. I have always held the view that those working with our young underage players are very special.
These people do so for all of the right reasons and they play such an important part at a crucial stage in the lives of our young players. Mentors that work with these players can lay the foundation for their long term association with the GAA and for that reason it’s so important that the right people are involved at this level.
I know of so many clubs and people in Limerick that place such a high importance in the development of our young players. It wasn’t always that way but those clubs that have placed a heavy focus on this are reaping success now and will do so in the future.
I have always held the view that the GAA has never been really thanked for the part it played in Irish society, particularly from the period 1900 to the 1960s. It was a very different Ireland then and was it not for the GAA shaping the pride and passion in every parish it could have been so different.
Ireland once again faces many challenges and the role of the GAA club, while changing, is still very important. Many of the young players that were cultivated here have had to travel to various parts of the world in search of work but the link with the GAA is very important and in many ways is the key to finding a job.
Many clubs in Limerick and around Ireland are finding it hard to continue – losing players is making it hard for many to field teams while others are suffering from a lack of finance due to developments provided during the celtic tiger.
The local GAA club is the strongest sporting link in most parishes; it’s the corner stone that has withstood so many challenges. Parishes have lost the local creamery, the post office, the garda station, the local pub and the prospect of losing the parish priest is just around the corner.
Some GAA clubs will not survive and for me that will end the link in a chain that has been handed down from generation to generation. Our GAA clubs in Limerick have much to be proud of - they have led the way in their communities.
They have shown leadership, courage and vision often way ahead of the ruling body in this county. A club requires dedicated people working very hard to achieve at a variety of levels but in most cases you will also find that it takes one key person to set the goals and drive change and others will follow.
Croke Park often tells us how important the club is, how it’s the bed rock of the association but if that’s case then can they not find some way of helping the many clubs that are struggling?
The costs now associated with getting a team on the field are exceptionally high and it would be a great boost to most clubs if some way could be found, even for a short while, to ease the burden on clubs.
Some clubs in Limerick have work to do but deep down the love of our games sees them keep the flag flying. Winning a major trophy would be the perfect motivational tool for every club in Limerick and let’s hope this year some team will end the barren spell we have endured.
Last week I wrote about the sad passing of Fr Ronnie Neville and how he loved Limerick. He and many others like him wore the green and white close to their chests and watching Limerick was such a major part of their lives.
Those who are lucky enough to wear the Limerick jersey must never forget the efforts supporters make to follow their team and in Limerick we are very fortunate to have such a great base of supporters.