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Fri 29-Jul-2011 23:10
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Henry Martin previews Limerick v Kerry
In 1965, the Limerick senior football team, qualified for the Munster final, with a team containing a number of football diehards along with Bernie Hartigan and Eamonn Cregan, best known for their hurling exploits. They had beaten Cork along the way, but Kerry proved too much in the final, and it copper fastened the theory that for one of the ‘lesser’ four to win a Munster football championship, you need the big two to be drawn against each other, on the other side. As Clare proved in 1992, it is possible to win a title beating one of the big guns in a one off game, but beating both can be deemed impossibility.
After 1965, Limerick did not reach a Munster final again until 1991. As in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010, Limerick might well have won that 1991 game, and on reflection, it would not be greedy to suggest that at least three of those five Munster titles could conceivably have come to Limerick. Hard luck stories will always haunt Limerick in both codes, but life isn’t always fair, and ironically the greatest hard luck story of all didn’t come in a Munster final, but in the Munster Semi-Final of 2008 when Cork were all but beaten until two late goals were conjured. Perhaps if Limerick had held on to win that day; it may well have paved the way for success in 2009 and 2010.
The 2011 Munster championship draw paired Limerick with Kerry in the Munster Semi Final and would mean that for Limerick to reach the Holy Grail, both big guns would have to be beaten. Once John Galvin did his cruciate ligament a couple of weeks before the championship, the Limerick footballers were seen as a means to an end in 2011. Galvin is more than just a footballer, he is a spiritual leader, a player of such quality that Dara Ó ‘Sé struggled against him. Galvin is an all-star in every way shape and form, apart from having the statue on his mantelpiece. Throw in a raft of other injuries prior to the Kerry match, and the result was inevitable. In Ray Cummins-esque fashion, Kerry took the sympathy points instead of going for the Jugular ala Lar Corbett. Limerick football was finished we were told. They had missed the boat, and were an ageing team. In the media, the pundits haven’t really been convinced, Tony Davis who seems to have a soft spot for Limerick football, excepted. Ray Silke compiled an article in 2004 after the Limerick vs. Galway league game listing a number of points outlining why Limerick wouldn’t win a Munster title. In fairness to Silke, he made a lot of valid points, but his dismissive approach typified how the claims of the Limerick footballers have been dismissed.
But Limerick football was not finished, and it’s a credit to the character shown by a depleted bunch of players that they are now in the All Ireland Quarter final with an opportunity to show Kerry that the real Limerick is the one that rattled their cage in Killarney last year, not the injury hit side that collapsed in Limerick this year. Offaly while not travelling well in the qualifiers, came to Limerick having dumped Monaghan from the championship. A number of football people within Limerick were of the belief in advance of that game, that the baggage from the Kerry game could have a negative impact. However in Ian Ryan and Ger Collins we have two natural finishers in the inside-forward line. Both of the right age profile, and both seriously dedicated athletes and they produced the scores that pulled the side through that Offaly game. A rising tide lifts all boats and depleted or not, Limerick have won three games on the bounce.
The most recent against Wexford was reminiscent of a club winning a county final after a number of years, given the jovial and emotional scenes afterwards, the supporters mingling with the players, and sheer elation of victory. In typical Limerick fashion, the wind was knocked from our sails overnight, with the double whammy of the hurlers going down on Sunday, and the footballers drawing Kerry again. But it must be said that everyone enjoyed and savoured the victory on Saturday night, and it’s disappointing that there weren’t more people there to witness it. People will point out that the Sunday Game did not credit Limerick for their victory, and that the emphasis was on the point at the end, but there is only one way for Limerick to respond to that, and that’s to come out fighting in Croke Park. I have huge time for Joe Brolly, and he was 100% right in respect of his questioning of the umpires, but maybe he could have saved it for another day when a less historical result has been achieved. Its not as if he isn’t going to get more chances to highlight such matters.
Over the past 10 years or so, the Limerick hurlers have had controversies, and at times have gone down without a fight. But we love them, and dream of the day they will finally lift the McCarthy Cup. The more realistic dream for the footballers is winning a Munster Championship and while they may have shown indifferent league form at times, they have left every last ounce on the field when it mattered most. They have broken our hearts like the hurlers, but they have never collapsed ala Offaly 03, Ennis 06, Croke Park 09 etc. Regardless of how well the footballers have gone, support for them has been limited at times. The turnout at Portlaoise was a massive disappointment, and in fact could be deemed an embarrassment, but those who were there, will remember it forever more, because it is up there with Cork, Clare and Tipperary of 1996, and that famous Under 21 night against Tipperary in 2002. It truly was that memorable. They will go to Croke Park and have a go, they might fall short, they might not even compete, but they will leave everything on the field.
Any Limerick supporter in Thurles or even at home watching the game on TV last Sunday, that considers himself or herself a genuine GAA supporter, owes it to the Limerick footballers to travel to Croke Park next weekend.
They have a divine right to your support. There can be no excuses.
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