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Tue 19-Jul-2005 21:02
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Limerick in Croke Park - A Shakespearean Tragedy Waiting to be Written?
There are some things in this world that don't go well together. Oil
and water. Louis Walsh and an entertaining musical act. Roy Keane and
remote Japanese islands. CJ Haughey and tribunals of inquiry. Add to
this list: Limerick teams and Croke Park.
Since "The Umbrella All Ireland", all of thirty two years ago, Limerick
teams have suffered defeat after defeat in Croke Park. Apart from two
wins against Antrim in the mid-nineties, Limerick fans have had nothing
to cheer about on their journeys to this famed venue. Indeed, it's been
rumoured that the IRFU are keen to move the AIL finals to Croke Park,
now that Rule 42 has been altered, to give a better chance of success to
teams from outside of Limerick.
Before I continue I feel I must issue a health warning on this article.
If you are a Limerick fan have have suffered from depression in the past
then maybe this article isn't for you. Stop reading right now!
Kilkenny gained revenge for their '73 defeat within twelve months.
Limerick weren't to find themselves back in the capital again until the
1980 All Ireland where they were defeated by a Galway side bridging a
sixty seven year gap. Limerick gave their opponents a head start of 2-1 that day and paid the ultimate price for it. One would have to feel particularly sorry for Eamonn Cregan that year, though, as not many players score 2-7 in an All Ireland and still have to settle for a runners-up medal.
The following year they were back again with a chance to avenge their
defeat to Galway, in the semi-final this time. But for Sean Foley getting sent to the line in still very controversial circumstances, they would most likely have gained their revenge. This game went to a replay, which Limerick lost having had to field without four other regulars. Not to be...
The following generation was a very lean one for Limerick hurling. They
had an 11 year wait to return to a Munster final and 13 to return to
Croke Park. Many Limerick players and fans still carry emotional scars
from their trips to headquarters in the nineties as we witnessed not one
but two All Ireland final defeats. For me the defeat in '96 was much
harder to take than the Offaly one in '94.
The '94 final defeat was as dramatic as one could ever experience,
probably the greatest turnaround in the shortest time in the 120+ year
final history of the hurling championship. One minute you're thinking
of where best to try and get onto the pitch at the final whistle. The
next you're heading for the exits with the image of Billy Dooley
hammering over point after point, each one a dagger to the
green-and-white hearted. However, the last five minutes apart, Limerick
did themselves justice especially considering that they were an
inexperienced outfit back then. Yes, mistakes were made and eighteen wides
shot but the lessons were learnt. At least that's what we convinced
ourselves of anyway.
The 1996 final was much harder to take. Wexford people may accuse me of
begrudery here but I maintain that had Limerick performed to the levels
attained earlier that summer - against Clare and Tipperary - we wouldn't
be currently suffering a 32 year drought. The fact that they performed
so badly and was our second taste of defeat in three years is why it
rankles with me more than 1994. Wexford would have won by more had it
not been for the brilliance of Joe Quaid that day and were without doubt
the best team on the day. We knew leaving Croke park that evening that
we wouldn't be back in a hurry. That fact alone made it more painful
than 1994 loss as back then we had genuine hopes that we'd be back to
We returned again in 2001 with renewed optimism of gaining a bit of
revenge for the 1996 defeat. The new championship format meant that
despite losing the Munster final we still got a trip to 'de big smoke.'
What followed was as bizarre a game as we could imagine, again! Wexford
got one superb goal, three goals from placed balls, we hit umteen wides
and had a goal disallowed. Even the most staunch Wexford fan would have
to admit we left them off the hook that day. They have surely never met
a more generous side than Limerick that day. The language I used coming
out of the ground that day was very choice. I think I might have sworn
never to return there again!
Of course it's not just our senior inter-county hurlers that seem to be
afflicted with this curse. In the early nineties, Ballybrown,
Patrickswell and Kilmallock all travelled up to compete in the club
final. All came back home empty handed.
Our minors have not gotten to play top oppossition there in a long while
now. Indeed the minors most recent success in the final came in the one
year when the final was moved to Thurles, to celebrate GAA Centenary
Indeed, the Limerick footballers got to the Jones' Road venue two years
ago for the division 2 league final. When Stephen Kelly curled an
audacious shot from the endline it seemed we were set for victory.
Alas, Westmeath hit a late goal to go a point up. Despite late chances
falling to man-of-the-match Kelly and Conor Fitzgerald, the footballers
experienced what our hurlers have become all too accustomed to over the
The curse, if that's what you want to call it, seems to only affect the
male gender though as the junior Camogie team won an All Ireland there
in spectacular circumstances in 1995.
Overall, our record at Croke Park is terrible. The worst in the country
in fact. Mayo and Waterford have often been derided for their lack of
success at the famous venue but they have at least have had some decent
wins there in recent times.
We've had none.
If William Shakespeare were alive today and decided to write a modern
day tragedy he'd probably base it on Limerick teams' experiences at headquarters. It is a record like any other, in that it will come to an end some day. That day is not likely to be in 2005, though, unless we witness the biggest shock in hurling since Olcan McFetridge hit the Offaly net in 1989.
‘We talk just like lions, but we sacrifice like lambs…’.
Whatever Happened to….
Anyone you know in your club?
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‘Some a’ Dem’ Lads are only Dow-en for the Showers….’
Heavenly Hurling: How the Gods pass their time...
GAA Time and Real Time
Saint Patrick and the camogie princesses
Keats and Chapman at the Munster Final
Mass, the Mater, ‘The Dergvale’ and Mullingar…
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