Another generation raises the green and white standard for Limerick
Undaunted by decades of setbacks and disappointment Limerick are once more ready to meet the challenge
Eamonn Cregan, one of the players who provided some relief from this litany of disappointments by winning the MacCarthy Cup 40 years ago, is fond of a phrase that artfully sidesteps any suggestion of self-aggrandisement to make a wider point. “We’ve won one All-Ireland since 1940.” Somewhere down all of the years during which he has been saying this, a calendar page flicked over and 1973 became farther distant from the present than it had been from 1940.
Ryan however had a point. His team should have been a 24-carat good news story but their best years were affected by opposing drags on the public’s emotions.
In 1994 the All-Ireland final was against Offaly, not one of the traditionally great powers and its narrative became consumed with how Cregan, like a hurling Coriolanus, was managing the opposition to Limerick and pathos was provided by Cregan’s almost tangible emotional connection with his own county.
In the following two years Limerick lost out to counties who had been waiting even longer than they had for breakthrough success, Clare and Wexford both of whom had managers in Ger Loughnane and Liam Griffin who were gifted evangelists for hurling and their counties.
There was no Kilkenny or in those pre-qualifier days Cork or Tipperary to make Limerick unequivocally the people’s choice in the way they were six years ago.
The strange tendency to emerge at the same time as other great romantic stories continues. Even before the 1990s, Limerick managed to contest the 1980 final against a Galway side winning a first All-Ireland in 57 years and in the ’50s it was Limerick who made way in the semi-final for Wexford, who were about to win a first All-Ireland in 45 years. Of the seven All-Ireland challenges as Munster champions between 1940 and this year, only one was terminated by Kilkenny.
This year Dublin have won Leinster for the first time in 52 years and sit in the other semi-final awaiting whoever the quarter-finals at the end of the month send forward to meet them.
Last Sunday bridged the years all the way back to 1996. In the days of next month and, they will hope, the early autumn the great imagining will intensify. Just one match away from reaching at least one All-Ireland final for each of the decades since 1973 and two matches away the elusive jackpot of two Liam MacCarthy Cups since 1940.