Iconic moment: Declan Hannon lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup
LIMERICK hurling continues to ride a crest of a wave and that was evident with bigger attendances at club hurling championship matches last weekend.
Now Limerick has never been a county to attract big numbers to watch club games but there was a noticeable increase last weekend.
And, why not – it was an opportunity to see the All Ireland heroes up close and personal. That’s the real value of the Liam MacCarthy success that the hurling heroes are available in local GAA pitches across Limerick and not locked away and presented at pre-arranged time slots.
For some, the 36 All Ireland winning players won’t be seen again until they return to the green and white of Limerick next Spring but they are missing out because it is clear that club matters to these players.
And, it was great to see the stars sign autographs and pose for photographs after the varying final whistles last weekend.
Again this weekend the vast majority of the John Kiely’s 36-man winning Limerick panel will be on club duty. Last weekend, Peter Casey (Na Piarsaigh) and Seamus Flanagan (Feohanagh-Castlemahon) didn’t feature due to injuries sustained on Limerick duty but the duo could return this weekend.
There is an attractive double-header in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening where 14 All Ireland winners will be on view for Na Piarsaigh, Adare, Patrickswell and Kilmallock.
This is the Big Four of Limerick hurling – winning the last 11 Daly Cup titles between them.
Na Piarsaigh face Adare and Kilmallock play Patrickswell and places in the knockout stages of the championship can be secured with a group game to spare.
It might even boost attendances if the Liam MacCarthy Cup was to attend. Wouldn’t it be nice if an area was reserved in the Mackey Stand and supporters could get their picture taken with the famed trophy with the backdrop of the Gaelic Grounds pitch.
There were 19 different clubs represented on the All Ireland winning panel and the trophy has visited about of dozen of the clubs. In the coming weekend, South Liberties, Ballybrown, Bruree and Monagea are among the areas that will get their hands on the precious cup. Credit the players they have been exemplary over the last two weeks, in terms of meeting with well-wishers, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
Last week Kyle Hayes received his Limerick Leader Man of the Match award in Matthew Stephens. By the time the 20 year old was ready to leave the O’Connell St Jewellers, a group of secondary school students were waiting for a selfie. It’s a whole new world for them and their initial reaction has been impressive.
It’s only right that Liam MacCarthy journeys across Limerick as much as possible over the coming weeks and months. A 45 year wait was too long and young and old want to have their photograph taken with the trophy while it’s in Limerick hands.
Limerick hurling is enjoying a high profile at present and for the time being all celebrations are welcome. If a handful of extra supporters attend club games or a handful of extra kids arrive at club training then it’s a positive fallout from August 19 in Croke Park.
There is no doubting that attendances will be up when the Allianz Hurling League resumes next Spring but the grassroots at club level also need to see a boost from the All Ireland win.