Luimneach Abú! Former senior hurling captain James Ryan leads cheers at the Cois Laoi Gaels Cúl Camp in Martinstown Picture: Michael Cowhey
THE ONLY green things growing in County Limerick gardens during the drought are flags as supporters get behind their team ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Cork.
As of this Friday afternoon, 69,000 tickets have been sold confirmed Limerick County Board secretary Mike O’Riordan. He expects over 70,000 on Sunday with 30,000 plus from Limerick.
“You have the two biggest supporting counties in the country from a hurling perspective. There is massive interest from Limerick supporters. Everyone is anticipating a good game. There is no pressure on the team,” said Mr O’Riordan.
Where there could be pressure is on the M7 due to roadworks near Naas and the volume of Cork and Limerick traffic.
A spokesperson for Kildare County Council said: “Motorists should be aware of speed restrictions on the M7 which may result in longer travel times. It is advisable to allow ample time to allow for unexpected occurrences. We regret any inconvenience caused to motorists as a result of the M7 upgrade works.”
Gardai are patrolling the 60km limit with speed cameras between between J8 Johnstown and J10 Naas South regularly due to safety worries.
Irish Rail have put on three extra trains for supporters and expect to carry up to 1,800 Limerick supporters to Heuston Station on Sunday morning.
Jim Gallivan, business development manager, Limerick, said: “We are fortunate that the term Sporting Limerick applies to our staff in Limerick and we have staff volunteering to work train specials on Saturday and Sunday,” said Mr Gallivan, who advises that they will not be allowing alcohol on any train services out of Limerick on Sunday morning or returning from Heuston from 6pm on Sunday evening.
Back to the match and the bookies make Munster Champions Cork the favourites at 10/11. Limerick are priced at 11/10 with the draw at 9/1.
“I think the draw between the teams earlier in the year showed there isn’t much between the two teams, even if Cork are Munster Champions,” said a spokesperson for Paddy Power.
Legendary Limerick corner-bark, Stephen McDonogh lives just a few miles from the Cork border in Bruree. Like the bookies, Stephen can’t call it.
“Cork always back themselves. They have that supreme confidence that whoever they are playing they believe they are good enough to win," he said.
“Sunday’s game is wicked hard to call. It’s definitely fifty fifty - you couldn’t call it. Limerick are coming with a bit of momentum and Cork are Munster Champions. Limerick are going with very little to lose – they can have a right cut off them,” said Stephen, who knows many of the current squad from his time as a selector with the Limerick minor team of 2014.
“Cian Lynch, Tom Morrissey, Barry Nash – they are all very grounded lads. The one advantage the team has is a good cohort of them have been to Croke Park before. I wouldn’t expect the game to faze them. They are a very dedicated bunch,” said Stephen.
Like many from Bruree and surrounding parishes he attended Charleville CBS and the town is the main social focal point.
“There would be great old rivalry between Cork and Limerick. Move up along Bruree, Ballyagran, Dromcollogher, Broadford - they are all right on the border. But it was always a healthy rivalry with Cork, there wasn’t the same intensity as you would have with Tipperary,” said Stephen.
If the current team wear the jersey with the same pride and passion as Stephen did they won’t go too far wrong.
Mayor of the City and County of Limerick, James Collins said: “On behalf of the people of Limerick, I would like to wish the Limerick senior hurlers the very best.”
He said this panel of players have been moulded in the heat of the successful minor and U-21 teams over the past number of years and have shown they have the temperament and ability to compete at the highest of levels, and in the white heat of battle.
“They have shown nerves of steel in previous matches and a maturity beyond their years as they have battled for promotion to Division 1A this year in the league and upped their performances again in this year’s championship.
“All of Limerick is behind them, urging them and willing them to play with pride and love of the jersey on Sunday. Limerick is rightly proud of the whole panel and its management team and we wish them all the very best in the semi-final against Cork,” said Mayor Collins.
It is also going to be a big day for Ross Allen, Kate Liston and Noah Deere, who will be the flag bearers for the county.
The match is live on RTÉ and Sky Sports. Throw in is at 3.30pm.
- See this weekend's Limerick Leader Sport for full and unrivalled coverage of the big game and stay with www.limerickleader.ie for team news and results this weekend