Up for the match: Kildimo Pallaskenry club chairman Emmett O’Brien pictured with John Griffin and Cathy O’Connor and her three children Rian, Daibhi, and Siun Picture Michael Cowhey
SIX-year-old Rian O’Connor from Kildimo will have the signal honour of bringing the match sliotar on to the pitch at Croke Park this Sunday.
But the rules mean that this young member of the Kildimo Pallaskenry GAA club will not be able to wear the Limerick colours.
The call confirming his role came from Croke Park this Wednesday, sparking huge excitement in the O’Connor household.
“He was delighted when we told him,” Rian’s mother Cathy said. “It is a huge honour for the club, the school, the parish and the county.”
And he is not at all phased by what is ahead for him.
“It will be grand,” he told his mum when she asked if he was nervous.
“We will have to hit the road very early on Sunday morning,” Cathy continued. She, her husband David and Rian have been asked to be at Croke Park for 11am.
Walking out onto the hallowed sod is a dream come true for Rian, a pupil at Kildimo NS. Rian is sports mad and loves swimming, gym and football as well as hurling. But hurling is his particular passion.
He practices every day and plays with his dad most evenings. Then every Tuesday, he and his younger brother Dáibhí train with other under-sixes where Cathy is one of a team of coaches.
And his dream is to play in Croke Park.
In fact, when told about Sunday, Cathy explained, he wanted to bring his hurley and helmet with him and run out with the team. But that will have to wait for another day.
Ironically on Sunday, some of his cousins will also be at the match, waving Galway flags.
“All he wants is for Limerick to win,” Cathy said.
Meanwhile, in Kildimo Pallaskenry, club pride and county pride have been fired up and united in players Kyle Hayes and Barry O’Connell who will be togging off in the Limerick strip this Sunday.
It will be very much a first-time experience for anyone under 60 in Kildimo Pallaskenry to have senior All-Ireland medals come into the parish.
The history buffs have to go back to 1957 and John Barry and Jimmy Nealon who played in an All-Ireland Junior All-Ireland. And then was Paddy McMahon who played with Limerick in 1940 but who had transferred clubs to Ahane.
“There is great pride that we have two players going to Croke Park, one on the team and one on the panel,” club chairman Emmett O’Brien said.
But the club is trying to keep the build-up from going into over-drive.
“It is quite low-key and that was a deliberate approach by me as chairman along with other members of the executive,” he said.
“We have also discussed it with the county board,” Emmett continued.
“We are very proud of our players but we are mindful this is just another match, albeit a very important match.
“Every is talking about the match in the parish. But it is a deliberate decision not to be unnecessarily bothering both Barry or Kyle.
“A lot of lessons have been learnt since 2013 when we lost the run of ourselves and I and others have addressed that issue at county board meetings.
“I believe the approach taken by the county board is very good, very professional and low-key.”
But, he acknowledged, the demand for tickets across Kildimo Pallaskenry has been huge, outstripping supply by more than four times.
However, he hopes that a number of events will give people the sense of inclusion the long-awaited All-Ireland final seems to demand.
The club is organising an Up for the Match this Thursday night with Martin Kiely as MC. Among the panel of well known GAA pundits will be Tom Ryan, Ollie Moran, James Ryan and Niall Gilligan and after all the questions, answers and opinions, there will be time for ceol agus craic, Emmett added.
The screening of the match in the Gaelic Grounds should also answer the need to be part of the action, with up to 20,000 expected to attend.
Beyond next Sunday, Emmett is also up-beat and optimistic.
“There is a huge rise in interest in hurling. And there have been huge numbers at the Cúl camps,” Emmett pointed out.
His hope and expectation is that all this will feed into future players at club and county level.
“John Kiely has been a huge inspiration,” he added.