SOCCER star Niall Quinn won hearts and minds at the weekend when he officially opened the new astroturf park in Kilcornan, to be known as the Ger McDonnell Memorial Park.
And his visit, coupled with the example of the late Ger McDonnell, inspired a new generation of Kilcornan youth to think big and to dream big.
Indeed, the achievement of a state-of-the-art astroturf pitch in Kilcornan was in itself, up to a little over 18 months ago, the stuff of dreams.
But a lively and committed committee, headed up by Ger Mann, dreamed the dream, organised a number of fund-raisers, chased down co-funding from West Limerick Resources – and made the dream a reality.
And on Saturday, the crowds came. They came to see Niall Quinn, they came to share the dream. And of course, they came to see their children test out the new surface in a series of exhibition matches. And as they came, so too did the rain. But the nearby hall was ready and they crowded in there to hear Niall Quinn speak of his time with Arsenal and with Manchester City and his days on the Irish team and Jack Charlton.
He had arrived, he told them, a bit down-hearted following the Ireland-Sweden match the previous evening. But what had been achieved by a small community had transformed that. He spoke warmly too of Kilcornan’s well-loved hero, Ger McDonnell, the lad from the Limerick lowlands who dreamed of scaling the world’s highest mountains – and who did so.
“You can do anything you set your mind to,” he urged his young listeners, as he unveiled the memorial plaque with Ger’s mother, Gertie. “You can do anything if you have the will and the resources.” And they all, to a child, believed him, because the proof was there, in Niall Quinn’s own life, in Ger McDonnell’s achievements.
In Kilcornan’s achievement.