18 Aug 2022

Opinion: GAA Championship is perfect medicine for the soul - Jerome O'Connell

Opinion: GAA Championship is perfect medicine for the soul - Jerome O'Connell

The Artane Band lead Limerick and Waterford around Semple Stadium ahead of the 2007 Munster SHC final

WHEN Limerick and Waterford last met in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship Final the attendance was a whopping 48,700!

President  Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern were among those watching on in Semple Stadium in Thurles on Sunday July 8, 2007.

Weeks before Richie Bennnis and his Limerick side had lit up the summer in their trilogy against Tipperary.

All very different this Sunday when Limerick and Waterford meet for just a fourth time ever in the Munster SHC final – the two previous meetings were Limerick wins in 1933/34.

No Sean Treacy Pipe Band, no minor final for the early arrivals, no Primary Game at half time.

The Limerick terrace was already going to be devoid of the late Frank Hogan and his John 3:7 sign but now Covid-19 means the terrace will also be without a pre-match green flare, no face painted Pa Buckley and no sombrero wearing Pat Carroll.

All absent and all will be missed from the occasion that is Munster Senior Hurling Final Day.

But 2020 is about more – a different more, and while not necessarily a better more, it is what it is.

It was the Cork footballers that appeared to ignite the championship season with their late late show in the Munster SFC last Sunday.

There have been other results of note but Kerry crashing out of the championship so early had everyone talking glued to the television and in the aftermath talking about GAA.

Now that provincial finals and the knockout stages of the hurling and football are upon us, it’s great to see that the behind closed door championships are filling a void that was left vacant in the daily life of so many.

And, that’s not lost on the players.

“I'm privileged that I'm in a job which means I can still go to work. And I'm privileged that inter-county championships can still go ahead. On such a simple, human level, it's something to look forward to,” said Gearoid Hegarty this past week on the occasion of his October Hurler of the Month award in the official PwC GAA-GPA awards.

“People don't have a lot of things to look forward to at the moment. The amount of people who have remarked to me that the weekends are all built around getting a bit of grub in, getting the fire on for the match, getting the family around. Having something to look forward to is a thing everybody took for granted. “We're in a privileged position that we can provide some entertainment for people in these difficult times,” said the Desmond College teacher.

So there is much missing from Munster Final Day but that won’t diminish the excitement or heartbreak come the final whistle.

At the end of the day the history books will record who the champions were and Limerick are focused on just that.

Limerick will bid to return an eighth trophy across three seasons when they play Waterford on Sunday. Limerick are bidding to put Munster senior hurling titles back-to-back for just the seventh time and for the first time since 1980-81.

It terms of silverware, it’s the 1930s since Limerick enjoyed such a return from a crop of players.

Limerick have an All-Ireland SHC, Munster SHC, two Allianz Leagues, two Munster Leagues and a Fenway Classic won since 2018 and on Sunday bid for another provincial SHC title.

Win or lose in Thurles, the road to Croke Park continues – be it a quarter final the following weekend or a semi final in two weeks time.

Firstly, all eyes on RTE television on Sunday at 4pm when these Limerick players will hopefully provide another injection of medicine for the soul.

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