Incredible scenes as Limerick lead the 1993 All-Ireland champions 1-01 to no score early on.
Disappointing after a great start.
Limerick keep feet on the ground ahead of title defence
Level-headed champions have no intention of ‘retiring’ on one All-Ireland title
March 3 2019, 12:01am, The Sunday Times
Ticking over: Limerick’s Conor Boylan races through in their win over TippKEN SUTTON
In their long lap of honour Damien Quigley came across the Limerick hurlers at two functions, more than three months apart. The first was on the night of the All-Ireland. Quigley played in finals that Limerick lost in the 1990s, experiences that he shared with his friend John Kiely. Win or lose those evenings are long and emotional and beery. Quigley stayed up until after 5am, long enough for everyone’s inhibitions to have dissolved.
He looked at the players and was struck by how intact they were. In Dreams, the DVD that doubles as an atlas of Limerick’s year, there is footage of Kiely’s speech to the players on the bus journey to the hotel. The speech was both pastoral and statesmanlike but the last thing he said to them, with a smile, was about being smart in their rig-outs at the banquet.
“They were dressed in beautiful three-piece suits, really classy as you’d imagine,” says Quigley, “but to a man they had their waist coats and ties on all night. It wasn’t that they weren’t enjoying themselves but there was none of them falling down drunk. I was trying to think if I had been part of an All-Ireland winning team what would we have been like? They carried themselves so well that night that I thought, ‘These boys will be OK.’”
In early December there was a corporate fundraiser for the team in Adare Manor, the palatial golf club and hotel owned by the team’s sponsor J P McManus. It was €3,000 for a table of ten and more than 30 tables had been sold. The centrepiece of the evening was a chat on stage between the RTE commentator Ger Canning and six of the Limerick players.
“I’m not joking,” says Quigley, “they were sensational. They were unbelievable. It was the first time that most people would have been inside the Manor and it is simply stunning. You’d think everybody would have been talking about the setting but everybody was talking about how good the players were. They were funny, they were self-depreciating, they were modest, full of crack — they were being themselves. The chemistry between them was very noticeable. Whatever happens this year it won’t be the celebrations that messed it up.”
On Thursday it will be 200 days since Limerick were crowned champions. Siobhan Scanlon in the county board office has managed a diary for the cup; by now, she says, every school, college, hospital and nursing home in Limerick has been graced with its presence. On the evening of the fundraiser in Adare Manor the cup was delayed by a prior engagement: two players brought it to a mass in Limerick jail. That night it travelled seamlessly from one pole of Limerick society to the other.
With breakthrough champions nobody is ever sure what will happen next. On Mount Everest, statistically, most accidents happen on the descent. Limerick left the summit more than six months ago. They finished last season with, arguably, the most even team in the championship and, unquestionably, the deepest squad. The average age of their starting 15 in the final was just 23. A number such as that always sounds like a down payment on the future. It’s rarely that simple.
The climate that Brian Cody created in Nowlan Park over a couple of decades was described perfectly by Jackie Tyrell as “calculated instability.” There was an element of that in Kiely’s approach last year and it is even more important now. In a squad as big and deep as Limerick’s everybody must feel that they have a chance and everybody must feel threatened.
“The thing that really stood to John Kiely last year,” says the former Limerick player Niall Moran, “was that he disregarded reputation and went exclusively on form. This time last year there were fellas saying, ‘Seamus Flanagan definitely won’t be playing in the championship — he’ll be replaced.’ But they persisted with him. That question is already been asked about other players this year.”
Kiely has rotated his starting 15, just like every other manager in the league. Which players from outside the All-Ireland starters have made a strong case? Shane Dowling, Peter Casey and Tom Condon are three that spring to Moran’s mind. “Tom Condon’s form has been exceptional. He’s back to the form of probably four or five years ago, not just two or three years ago. Back to his real form.” How likely is it that Condon will be first choice in May? The only thing that matters now is that these questions are being taken seriously in March.
Over the winter other teams will have thought more deeply about Limerick. On his terrific website sixtwofourtwo, the journalist and coach Brian McDonnell analysed last year’s championship in staggering detail in 12 statistical categories. Limerick led three of them and were in the top three in another three categories. Perhaps most tellingly of all they led the columns for work rate and puck-out success. One of those statistics is a matter of strategy, the other is matter of conscience. The conscience of this group appears to be bullet-proof.
A few weeks ago Quigley met Nicky English at a dinner in honour of Dr Con Murphy. During his long innings as a Tipperary player and manager he had come across many Limerick teams but none like this. “Nicky said to me, ‘I don’t mean to insult you now but there’s a small bit more to these fellas than maybe was there before.’ And he’s right. These boys are smart. You’re not dealing with wild men like before. These boys are clever. They’re a bit different, there’s no question. These boys won’t retire on one All-Ireland.”
Base camp is already miles below. The climb has resumed.
I’m just home from a match, and not only is it pissing down, it’s absolutely baltic too. I’m numb.
Some cunt of a day ok
Two players brought the cup to Limerick prison
Seriously, fair play to them,
It’s some bollix getting the ball into the hand, your hand is frozen off ya, the sliotar is skidding everywhere and then you’ve got some fella breathing down your neck.
Nightmare conditions really, and the rain is coming down heavy. There’ll be some amount of frees.
As long as there are no injuries . The games today are lotteries .
If the ball hasn’t come in to you in a few minutes and then you get one. You’d be as well off going thumping for the warmth
I heard the two lads changed the water into wine the same night.
I think yer man is actually being serious. This is like how the Sevco support judge a manager by how shiny his brown brogues are.
They kept their waistcoats and ties on all night. Classy, classy stuff.
Quigley left his shin pads and ash guards on all night
The limerick juggernaut rolls on.
Was that Seamie Flanagan I saw heading away early with his tae in his mug? He was after having a lie-down for himself a few minutes earlier
No It was David Fitzgerald who spent most of the day throwing himself down.
What do mean? Did we not get a draw in ye’re home fortress in a game ye needed to win that was meaningless for us?
Use your words like a good man
With all the postponements today I hope the cunts show a lot of the game on league Sunday tonight .