EOIN Hand declared that he’d never have managed his country if he didn’t come to Limerick, as he launched his book ‘First Hand: My Life and Irish Football’ at the Markets Field on Friday night.
Following a civic reception at City Hall, the former Republic of Ireland and Limerick United manager made his way to Garryowen. With the scene of his greatest exploits as a backdrop, Hand got more than he bargained for as nearly 200 guests awaited his arrival.
While the 71-year-old only lives an hour away, his scheduled return allowed locals to share stories with him from yesteryear. Visibly taken aback at learning just how much he meant to the members of the Limerick sporting public in attendance, the scene was one of great emotion.
Speaking afterwards, the 1982 FAI Cup-winning manager detailed just how much his ties with the city mean to him. He said:
“It’s such a special thing. It was an opportunity for me to come back to Ireland. It was Limerick that gave me the offer to come back as manager in 1979. Really, it was a huge turning point in my whole footballing career. At the time, it’s happening so you don’t really think of about it – or the impact. As the years go on, you then see the results of it. It’s quite special.
“The whole city got behind us when they saw how hard we were working to put Limerick on the map. It gives you great satisfaction – there’s no doubt about that.
“It feels great to have this much support. I’ve retained a good friendship with all the lads. We get together twice a year. It’s lovely to be part of Limerick’s sporting history.”
Hand stayed behind for well over an hour to sign every copy personally, as well as posing with fans, young and old, who treasured the memories and respected his achievements.
In his eyes, it’s the least he could do – as he believes he owes so much to his time with the club.
“I wouldn’t have been Ireland manager if I didn’t come to Limerick. I know that. That in and of itself is a huge thing. It’s a huge part of me – I’ll never not be visiting the friends I made in Limerick.
“Limerick was the highlight because it was such a special time. It’ll never, ever change. Myself and Tony Ward were talking – no matter what he achieved in rugby and what I achieved elsewhere, it’s the memories of friends, games and the people who admired what you tried to do. It stays with you forever.”
The most successful manager in the history of Limerick senior soccer bowed out, but offered some advice for future footballers before he went.
“It is more difficult these days. Communities can be split and there’s more distractions for youngsters. You have to let them know what can happen for them if they apply themselves. Once they do, they can achieve anything if they put the minds to it.”
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