Tension, pride and ecstasy in Limerick as hurlers break 45-year spell

‘I really think Monday should be a bank holiday in Limerick’

Limerick fans at the Gaelic Grounds:  The grounds will host celebrations on Monday when fans welcome their heroes home. Photograph:  ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Limerick fans at the Gaelic Grounds: The grounds will host celebrations on Monday when fans welcome their heroes home. Photograph: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

 

Croke Park was the field of dreams for Limerick hurlers on Sunday, but for the ten thousand fans gathered to watch the match on home soil, the atmosphere in the Gaelic Grounds was almost just as magical.

There were jubilant scenes on the hallowed turf of Páirc na nGael when, after a heart-thumping finish, the final whistle blew and Shannonsiders celebrated their first all-Ireland victory in almost half a century.

Green-clad supporters gathered in front of the giant screen from midday, eager to show their support for a team carrying the hopes of an entire county.

Many of those attending the free, family event weren’t even alive the last time Limerick won an All-Ireland hurling final, but the significance of achieving what seemed an impossible dream was not lost on them.

Liam McCarthy is finally coming home to Limerick,” they chanted when the final whistle blew.

The Mackey Stand – named in 1988 after hurling hero Mick Mackey – erupted each time the men in green inched closer to victory.

Weather gods

For those determined to watch from the pitch it was as if the legendary Mackey had a chat with the weather gods, as the sun broke through for the day Limerick hurlers finally broke a 45-year spell.

“Mick Mackey is smiling down today,” they shouted after the final glorious battle in what has been a historic summer of hurling.

Limerick fans at the Gaelic Grounds ahead of the game. Photograph: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Limerick fans at the Gaelic Grounds ahead of the game. Photograph: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Located just a stone throw’s from Ivan’s post office run by Shane Dowling’s parents, the Gaelic Grounds is also just a short distance from the full-forward’s home club Na Piarsaigh.

“I’m fierce proud of Shane Dowling. That goal won the match for Limerick. The tension here for the last 10 minutes, you could have cut it with a knife, but they did it and it is just incredible,” said Ciaran Sheehan from Clonmacken.

“I don’t know what we will do for the rest of the week, but there will be no work anyway! I really think Monday should be a bank holiday in Limerick,” he joked.

One-year-old Oisín Barry from Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, watched the game from the comfort of his mother’s arms.

‘Absolutely ecstatic’

“He was too small to bring to Croke Park, but it’s great to be able to come here, where it’s just ideal for young kids and they can still be part of it,” said mum Caroline.

“I just feel ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic. What a fantastic game,” said Brian Wrenn who watched the game with his wife Danielle who is originally from London. “We are only married two months and my husband has converted me to the hurling. This is just amazing to see. To think Limerick has waited 45 years for this is incredible. I am just so proud of them.”

The Gaelic Grounds will be home to more celebrations on Monday when fans will welcome their heroes at a massive homecoming party.

Liam McCarthy is due to make his first appearance in the Gaelic Grounds around 7pm. The homecoming is a ticket-only event with free tickets available from Eventbrite.ie.