THE Limerick Under-21 hurling team who ended a 13-year famine by claiming the distinctive Cross of Cashel All-Ireland trophy in swashbuckling style in Thurles have added another award to their collection - the Limerick Person of the Month award.
In front of an attendance of 18,554 at Semple Stadium in September, the Limerick men took charge early on and never let go – their 16-point winning margin only some indication of the superiority of the Munster champions.
Team manager John Kiely who attended the Person of the Month award ceremony with players David Dempsey and Pat Ryan at the Clarion Hotel this Tuesday said the squad were “delighted” to be recognised with such a “prestigious award”.
“There is only one person or one group chosen each month so it is a great honour for us, as a group and management, to be selected for this award. Looking at the people who have received it in the past, it is a very prestigious award,” said the Galbally man who is principal of The Abbey School in Tipperary town.
While the initial euphoria that comes with winning Limerick’s first U21 All-Ireland title since 2002 has subsided, the management and players, who are back working and playing with their clubs and colleges, are now getting a sense of what the win actually means to grassroots hurling folk in the county and city.
“I think when you are inside in the group as a management team or as a player you are in your own little bubble,” said John. “We go training and get ready for matches, that’s what we do – it’s only afterwards when you meet people from outside the camp that you actually understand that it was quite a significant achievement and the fact that Limerick hadn’t won an All-Ireland in 13 years, that’s a long time and these guys were only aged five, six and seven then.”
The important thing now, he says, is that the squad build on their U-21 success. “I would hate to think that they would spend the next 12 years playing intercounty hurling and this was the best that it got – and I’m sure they feel the same way,” he said.
For midfield player Pat Ryan, the All-Ireland victory was the stuff dreams are made of.
“You would be dreaming about stuff like that for years,” said the Doon man, who cited Br James Dormer, a Christian brother in Doon, as being a key influence on his hurling career. “He had us hurling every day in primary school.”
The 20-year-old, who is in his second year studying Business in UL and also works part-time at Bambury Bookmakers, loves the discipline and commitment that is required at top level hurling.
“You would be busy but fellas would go off their mind if they weren’t kept busy - it’s good to be ticking over but the hurling is the main thing. If you could do the hurling full-time you would.” Would he like to see it go professional and get paid for playing? “You would be kind of lying if you said you didn’t. People say you would love to keep it traditional but you would never turn away a bit of money. I wouldn’t like to see the traditional element go and we do get well looked after – we had a great night at the medal presentation and we got well kitted out in suits by the county board and JP McManus. It means a lot to us.”
The Limerick Person of the Month is sponsored by the Limerick Leader, media agency Southern and the Clarion Hotel.