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25/09/2021

Then & Now: Limerick hurling great Eamonn Grimes

Then & Now: Hurling great Eamonn Grimes

Memories of ‘73: Limerick captain Éamonn Grimes lifts the Liam MacCarthy cup

LIMERICK SENIOR All-Ireland winning captains are few but highly thought of in their own locality and around the county.

In Hurling we have Declan Hannon (twice) Eamonn Grimes, Mick Mackey (twice) Timmy Ryan, Bob Mc Conkey, Willie Hough, and Denis Grimes, and in football Denis Corbett and Con Fitzgerald.

In this column we look at the 1973 winning captain Eamonn Grimes nicknamed by the fans as "Blonde Bombshell."

During his career he won one All-Ireland senior medal, four Munster medals two as a substitute, one National Hurling League medal, one Oireachtas medal and two All-Star awards (1973, 1975), Texaco Player of the Year Award 1973. An All-Ireland runner-up on two occasions, and he captained the team to the All-Ireland title in 1973. Two Munster minor medals one as a substitute, and an All-Ireland runner up medal.

At club level Grimes was a four-time county club championship medallist with South Liberties and has two Munster club runners up medals losing to Mount Sion and Glen Rovers. He also represented Limerick winning Railway Cup medals.

Eamonn Grimes was a born athlete and almost from his cradle days he was swinging a homemade hurley and from aged ten a real hurley courtesy of Santa Claus.

Born in 1947 he was a native of Donoughmore and he hurled with his brothers on the South Liberties teams. On the playing field he was a schoolboy wonder with his standout blonde hair, tussling for possession, and pulling first time on the sliothar. He was to be seen streaking through opposition defences on a lightening solo run.

A product of the City Primary School's League, he won Ola and Limerick Leader Cup medals with St John's at a very early age. In the East he won in the "Liberty" jersey two juvenile football and one minor football divisional laurels.

Also prominent in athletics he won the 440 yards novice championship of the county at Knockea. In 1965 at Shanagolden he won the 200 metres county title, and the 880 yards flat. Shortly afterwards at Clarina he won the 100 yards and 440 yards flat, the club sprint, and the Martin Hayes Cup for the best all round athlete at the meeting.

Eamonn attended Sexton Street CBS Limerick a famed hurling nursery and was on three Dr Harty Cup winning teams, as follows:

In 1964 they defeated St Flannan's Ennis 6-10 to 4-7, 1965 De La Salle Waterford 4-6 to 1-5,1966 Thurles CBS 6-5 to 5-3. Two of the three successes were turned into All- Ireland titles as follows: In 1964 St Peter's College, Wexford 6-7 to 4-5, 1966 St Mary's Galway 8-9 to 2-2. It was the All-Ireland College's Hurling Final in which Limerick CBS beat St Peter's Wexford 6-7 to 4-5. in Croke Park in April 1964, that people all over the field were asking "Who is no 12, that blonde lad on the Limerick team".

It was of course, Eamonn Grimes, and I doubt very much that any forward display from a college lad at Croke Park for a long time could possibly measure up to his showing, which was super, for on top of scoring two great goals against the breeze, young Grimes never lost a tussle for possession.

His solo running was a treat , and his first time pulling to set an example for his colleagues. Eamonn had the honour of captaining the team in 1966. During those successful years his teammates included Seamus Shinnors, Noel O'Gorman, Donal Manning, Pat Doherty, Liam Moloney, Eamonn Cregan, Pat Hartigan and Sean Foley.

Eamonn Grimes first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a member of the Limerick minor hurling team in 1963. He was an unused substitute that year when Limerick defeated Tipperary by 4–12 to 5–4 to take the Munster Minor Hurling Championship crown. The subsequent All-Ireland decider saw Limerick face Wexford. Grimes was introduced as a substitute, but Wexford won a high-scoring game by 6–12 to 5–9.

Two years later Grimes was in his final year in the grade and was a regular member of the starting fifteen. A 5–5 to 3–9 defeat of Tipperary gave him his first Munster medal on the field of play. Limerick were defeated by 4–10 to 2–7 by Dublin in the subsequent All-Ireland decider. He subsequently joined the Limerick under-21 hurling team; however, he had little success in this grade.

Eamonn made a successful debut at senior level in the Munster Championship first round on June 5, 1966, when Limerick defeated Tipperary who were the All -Ireland winners of the two previous years by 4-12 to 2-9.

It was the day before Eamonn sat his Leaving Cert exam and it was a big chance to take but it paid off. Eamonn Cregan scored 3-5 that day and was the outstanding player on the field. Honours eluded Limerick in those days despite brave performances and narrow defeats in Munster championship. Limerick and Eamonn won the National Hurling League title in the 1970/71 season defeating Tipperary by 3-12 to 3-11 at Cork on May 23,1971.

The galling one point defeat by Tipperary 4-16 to 3-18 in a gruelling 80-minute Munster final at Killarney in 1971, was hard to take but steeled the players for better days ahead. They would have been conscious that Limerick hadn't won an All-Ireland title since 1940. Eamonn's county career lasted from 1966 to 1980 inclusive and during that time was one of the games great players. In 1973 the mantle of Captain of Limerick was bestowed on him (after South Liberties won the county in 1972 defeating Patrickswell 4-8 to 1-5) and what a great year it turned out for him.

The first outing was against Clare who had good teams during that decade and had defeated Limerick the previous year. In a torrid clash Limerick just survived by two points, and Richie Bennis described it as the toughest game he played in. The Munster final against Tipperary was held at Semple Stadium Thurles, on a sweltering hot day before an attendance of 42,000. The atmosphere was tense and electric throughout as the gladiators clashed and the finish was straight from a Hitchcock thriller.

With time up and the scores level Limerick forced a seventy and referee Mick Slattery Clare told Richie Bennis he must score direct. And score he did, and the white flag waved and Limerick were Munster champions and the supporters went wild celebrating a first Munster crown since 1955.

Eamonn Grimes returned in triumph to the banks of the Shannon with the Munster cup. The All -Ireland semi final was played at Ennis and Limerick overcame the London challenge by 1-15 to 0-7. We will continue his story next week.

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