Sr Patricia Coughlan Kilfinane with her Altar display | Picture: Michael Cowhey
WHILE several decades of the Rosary were offered up that Limerick would make the All-Ireland final this year, one nun took praying for divine intervention to a whole new level — she dedicated the altar of her local church to the hurlers’ cause.
And Alleluia her efforts paid off!
On the eve of the hurling semi-final Sr Patricia Coughlan, a former goalkeeper herself, went about decorating the altar of St Andrew's Church in Kilfinane in homage to the sacred game.
Within 24 hours, her display had become an internet sensation.
The centrepiece of the ‘hurling shrine’ is two crossed hurleys and a sliothar hanging overhead featuring the words ‘For God’s sake, come on!’.
Locals worshipped at the ‘hurling shine’ during 11am Mass on Sunday before settling down to see Limerick reach their first All-Ireland final since 2007.
“Everyone likes it. Fr O’ Shea, in fairness, let me know I could do it. He’ll bless it for the final.”
The image of the altar was first uploaded to Facebook at 10.30 on Saturday night by local woman Grace O’Connor O’Brien with the caption: “May Limerick beat Cork tomorrow. Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.....”
The comments flowed in and by Sunday morning the image was being shared on numerous social media platforms.
Sr Patricia, meanwhile, was oblivious to the stir she had caused online and was more concerned with keeping her own nerves in check for the big game.
“I stayed here in the convent on my own. I ate a bar of chocolate, and then a packet of Taytos. I put on a wash and then I turned down the volume - the nerves,” she explained.
A die-hard Limerick hurling supporter Sr Patricia played in goals for her native Ardpatrick. She was named Miss Limerick for camogie back in 1970 and was presented with her prize by Pat Hartigan.
In relation to last Sunday’s game, she had the following observation to make: “Nickie Quaid saved us. He saved us and after that it was a team effort. Pat Ryan’s goal I thought was a lovely goal. They way he lobbed it in. I mean, to take a penalty, it’s laid on for you, but the way he put it in, it was amazing.”
A former business teacher at Scoil Pol in Kilfinane, Sr Patricia can count player Richie McCarthy and selector Jimmy Quilty among her past pupils. “Richie played centre back for Scoil Pol and we won a few county finals with him.”
Team manager John Kiely, who is principal of The Abbey School in Tipperary, did his teaching practice in her class. Sean O’Donnell who is performance analyst with the team is a history teacher in the school where Sr Patricia still gives a hand with games. Local man Hugh Murphy is the county board PRO.
“I think I’ve earned two tickets for the final,” she joked of her efforts.
As for the shrine, it will remain in situ for the final.
“The World Meeting of Families is on the following weekend. I’ll put the Pope then at the side, I’m not putting him in the centre - I’ll give his space alright,” she joked.