IF and when Limerick FC renews its love affair with the Markets Field, the soccer club could do worse than call on President Michael D Higgins to do the honours at the grand opening.
While later in life he was associated with Galway United, the Limerick-born first citizen recalled that his first exposure to the game was in Garryowen.
At the Hunt Museum to open an exhibition to mark the 70th anniversary of the Limerick Art Society, President Higgins himself painted one of the most vivid pictures of the night in describing his youthful passion for the game.
“I was living 14 miles out the road in Newmarket-on-Fergus and remember coming in on the back of a Honda to the Markets Field. To tell you how far back that was, Mick Lipper was playing at left full for Limerick at that time and it was my first ever visit to a soccer game. We would be preceded by the GAA’s vigilance committee of course and at the time in Newmarket they competed to get on the vigilance committee so they could go to the soccer,” he recalled.
In the course of a crowd-pleasing speech, President Higgins reeled off Belfield Park, Upper William Street, Lower Gerald Griffin Street, Rathbane and Coolraine Terrace among the addresses the family had lived at during the Limerick years.
The city should be every bit as proud of its cultural as it is of its sporting and industrial heritage, the president said.
He was glad to have been minister when the broadcasting regime was changed to enable Lyric FM to move to the city. He praised the vision of the University of Limerick in putting music - through the Irish World Music Academy and the Irish Chamber Orchestra - at the heart of its activities. And the Hunt itself, had brought something new to the Irish museums landscape, he said.
“The Hunt Museum was an entirely different kind of museum; not a museum with people trying to stop you touching the objects but one which encouraged people to know how they came to be and what function they purposed in different times.
“It encouraged youngsters to come in and have a tactile experience with objects of great beauty and function and was provoking questions in those who are interested in the history of art,” he said.
Limerick Art Society, the oldest such body in the country, was established 70 years ago - in large part through the efforts of the then Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick Robert Wyse Jackson - at a time of great international strife.
“It was founded - and this is why I think the human spirit survives everywhere – in an era when Europe was at war and tearing itself apart and our own country was coming out of one of the worst periods in the history of Irish people - the 1930s. Times of narrowness and bigotry and appalling excesses in relation to censorship. But that was when the Limerick Art Society was founded,” President Higgins said.
He reserved special mention for one of the society’s honorary members Jack Donovan, a number of whose works the president owns.
A presentation was made to the President by Limerick Art Society’s youngest member, 25-year-old Jennifer Lynch from Glenstal.
With around 130 works on show in the basement of the Hunt, Limerick Visions, the 70th anniversary exhibition, runs until December 19.