LIMERICK go to Nowlan Park this Saturday for the first competitive fixture in Kilkenny since a 2009 league tie.
But it’s just short of 20 years since Limerick’s last competitive victory over the home side in Kilkenny.
That 1-17 to 0-10 win was on August 24, 1997 in a league semi final.
Indeed Limerick also beat Kilkenny, in Nowlan Park, in round one of that season’s league - 2-10 to 3-8.
The 1997 Church & General National Hurling League was run on a trial basis from March to October basis - three group matches in March, two in April and one each in May and June. The league final was played in October - Limerick beating Galway in Ennis, 1-12 to 1-9.
The league title was to be the final act in the Tom Ryan era.
Na Piarsaigh’s Dave Hennessy was one of the young guns in the ‘97 panel under Ryan, and selectors Liam Lenihan, Bernie Savage and Brian Ryan
“I was on the panel and played a bit in the league but didn’t make the championship panel in 1996,” he recalled this week.
But club form saw him included again from the outset of ‘97 and he started down in Nowlan Park in round one on March 9.
The corner forward was among the goals, along with Gary Kirby and Mike Galligan as Limerick edged to a one point win.
Limerick lost to Galway but also defeated Wexford, Offaly and Laois and drew with Clare and Tipperary.
That run ensured a trip to Nowlan Park for a semi final meeting with Kilkenny.
“I remember we were going down and not given a chance,” recalled Hennessy.
“There was a fine crowd of Kilkenny people there and they expected to turn up and puck a few balls and get the win and go onto the final,” recalled the corner forward.
Limerick ended up 10-point winners with Claughaun's Mike Galligan leading the way with a return of 1-5 and captain Gary Kirby hitting two points and his Patrickswell colleagues Ciaran Carey and Barry Foley accounting for three points each.
“I can still remember Tom Ryan’s speech in the dressing room before that game. We were sitting down and he was shouting to get on our feet. He went into the history of Limerick and spoke of the Treaty Stone and Patrick Sarsfield. I was pretty new to the panel and still young and the hairs were standing on my neck. Even lads like Ciaran and others were ready to go out through the door,” outlined Hennessy.
“I was marking Willie O’Connor and Tom Ryan came to me out on the field beforehand and said he’ll cut the head off me so take him for a tour of the field and that’s what I did”
He continued: “That was a great night and I can remember the Kilkenny supporters more or less booed their team off while the Limerick crowd cheered us off”.
“I had another target that night as well and it was to get DJ Carey’s jersey - he was wing forward and Jacko Foley was on him and stuck to him for the whole night. The final whistle went and straight away I was looking around for DJ but Ciaran already had his jersey. I did get to shake DJ’s hand and even that was good enough for me.”
“‘97 was great for me and that league medal is still on the wall. I was young and new to the panel. Ciaran (Carey) used to collect myself and Shane O’Neill for training and matches. I used to sit in the back and even listening to his stories was great.”
Hennessy remained involved with Limerick in the post Tom Ryan era - making his Munster SHC debut in 2000 under Eamonn Cregan. In recent years Hennessy got involved with Monaleen.
“I won every medal from U-12 upwards through U-16, minor, U-21, junior and intermediate but never senior. I got the junior B win in 2014,” when Monaleen coaxed me back to play a bit,” outlined Hennessy, who now coaches the Monaleen U-6 hurlers.