On SUNDAY, the candle that had burned for Limerick hurling for 17 years exploded into an inferno, as Donal O’Grady’s men stunningly swept Cork aside to claim a momentous Munster championship title. Then, when we thought our spirits couldn’t be lifted any higher, The Boss man arrived in Thomond Park, plugged in his guitar, stole our hearts and fed our souls.
“Congratulations Limerick on the championship. I’ve heard all about it. Munster champions,” the New Jersey rocker told he 30,000-strong crowd in Thomond Park on Tuesday night as he launched into a blistering rendition of the anthemic Glory Days.
Just over 48 hours earlier, one by one, the Limerick senior hurlers climbed the steps of the Mackey Stand to stand shoulder to shoulder with their captain Donal O’Grady for the historic presentation.
As the Ballingarry man lifted the cup aloft, there was a collective cheer, a roar, a sigh of relief. The famine that had lingered in the soil and souls of the parishes and towns across the county was finally over.
Limerick You’re A Lady - they sang, and they meant every word of it. Today, she was looking her finest, dressed in green and white, and smiling brightly under the mid-summer sun. “It’s an indescribable feeling. It is a relief in a way. You think as a child that you would never be in that position, when it happens it’s such a great feeling,” said half-back Paudie O’Brien after the win. “This is our first real success. It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” added his Kilmallock teammate, Graeme Mulcahy.
There was celebrating to be done from Ardpatrick to Abbeyfeale, Na Piarsaigh to Newcastle West. By 9.30pm you could only lip-read the analysis from the Sunday Games panel, the pubs were so packed. The county was heaving, the city was buzzing. By 3am they were still merry on O’Connell Sreet, beeping their horns, waving their banners. By breakfast time on Monday morning, people were pinching themselves. Had it really happened? Yes, it had. The underage camps were thronged, the kids had new heroes. Ones they could meet. Ones they cold talk to, and shake their hands. Here they would learn about hard work, the importance of commitment, the strength of team spirit and the rewards that go with it. “The one thing I would love to get through to the readers of the paper and to the fans is that the mentality of the team this year is - it’s a team game - you give the ball to the man in a better position,” commented man of the match James Ryan.
“It’s an individual award for a team sport. I was lucky enough to get man of the match the other day because the ball broke my way.”