Willie Hanly, Cappamore and Kildare, holds the Liam MacCarthy Cup aloft with niece Mary Hanly
IT took 90 years but finally, Cappamore-born Willie Hanly finally got his hands on the Liam MacCarthy Cup during a visit to Limerick.
“It was a great day,” said the retired army sergeant whose 70 years of exile in Kildare have not diluted his passion for Limerick hurling by one whit.
“The tears weren’t far away.”
Willie, who had come from his Kildare home for a Christmas visit to family graves in Cappamore, had no idea of what was in store for him when his niece, Mary Hanly, said she had a surprise for him. Unknown to Willie, Mary had told his story to GAA staff who very generously and graciously made an exception for Willie and invited him to the Castletroy office.
There, the Liam MacCarthy was brought to him and placed in his arms. “For a full hour I wasn’t able to recover from the shock,” Willie said afterwards.”
There are people all over Ireland and the world who would give their eye teeth to get their hands on Liam MacCarthy and I had it.”
For a Limerick man, and after such a long wait, it meant such a lot, he said. “It is a magnificent trophy.”
Willie’s connection with hurling goes back all the way to his early days in Cappamore when one of his very special memories is of going to Thurles on the bar of his father’s bike for the Munster final of 1940. All the roads to Thurles were a mass of ponies and traps and bicycles, he recalled this week.
Afterwards, still a boy, he went to work for the Ryan family of hurling fame: Willie Ryan who played in the victorious All-Ireland team of 1918, and his sons, Seamus and Liam who were part of the renowned Mackey’s Greyhounds.
Willie himself played minor hurling with Cappamore, an “unused sub” in their minor county title victory of 1947.
But Limerick hurling stayed in the blood and he was in Croke Park with his old pal, Paddy O’Neill of Ballyneety, now deceased, for the 1973 final, the day of all the rain.
And he was on Hill 16 the day Offaly beat Limerick with a late surge.
In August, he watched the All-Ireland at home in Kildare, trepidation in his heart but with the green-and-white flying defiantly outside his house.
And he had the double pleasure of seeing the Limerick Ladies Footballers bring home the Junior All Ireland title in September, when his grandniece Katie Heelan was on the team.
And he will forever remember Monday, December 10, 2018, when at 90, he lifted the Liam McCarthy Cup in joy.