Limerick shine brightly in the silence of Croke Park

‘Hurling and football being able to give a bit of enjoyment to people. We’re really grateful to be able to do that’

Waterford’s Ian Kenny and Peter Casey of Limerick during the All-Ireland hurling final in Croke Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Waterford’s Ian Kenny and Peter Casey of Limerick during the All-Ireland hurling final in Croke Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

The All-Ireland hurling season ended under stars with Limerick confirming their place as the brightest lights in the game. John Kiely’s side fired 0-30 and physically overwhelmed challengers Waterford to confirm their status as the newest powerhouse in the old game.

These big All-Ireland days are ultimately about families. It’s over a quarter of a century since Ciaran Carey, one of the shimmering figures in Limerick sport, played on a Treaty team that, truthfully, should have won an All-Ireland senior hurling title. Instead Limerick fretted through years of heartache and disappointment until this generation came along. On Sunday Carey’s nephew Cian Lynch won his second All-Ireland medal in three years. It is Limerick’s ninth hurling title.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Lynch with a big sunshine grin as he put the hurling season in context.

“The year 2020 has been very hard for every family across the country, and whether you were affected or not by the virus itself, it has run through every household.

“For us it’s just ... we’re grateful to be able to give a bit of enjoyment to families. And to people of Ireland – not only Limerick and Waterford and other teams. Hurling and football being able to give a bit of enjoyment to people. We’re really grateful to be able to do that.”

Deserted

There’s no point in pretending it was the same. The Jones Road end was deserted an hour before throw-in. The stadium itself felt ghostly without the crowd. The voices of the players echoed around the empty stands and corridors.

Afterwards the Limerick players had to walk one by one up to the stand to raise the Liam MacCarthy Cup to a crowd composed of their team-mates. Still, they made their own magic.

Three months ago there was considerable debate about the wisdom of proceeding with the All-Ireland championships. Limerick headed home on the train to no waiting crowds or no planned homecomings.

“That is a massive thing that people don’t see. But we held ourselves accountable, and made sure we wouldn’t do anything that would affect our team or our families,” said Lynch.

“You saw that today, even afterwards – lads didn’t want to get carried away – the worry is still there, the fear is still there.”

But on hurling’s special day Limerick were the promise of a bright future.

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