Croker curse returns to haunt Limerick

Limerick’s double setback at Croke Park last Sunday rendered further ammunition to a theory supported by many on Shannonside, that national headquarters has a jinx on their teams.

Much of the pre-match publicity centred on the fact that Limerick had strong claims to a first All-Ireland senior hurling since 1973, especially with big hitters Kilkenny and Tipperary out of the way.

More to the point, it would have been their second in 73 years, their previous victory again recorded as far back as 1940, a statistic, which hardly merits “‘strong hurling power” status.

Record books show that Croke Park has not been kind to Limerick.

A year after Eamonn Grimes and his team had surprised Kilkenny in the ’73 decider, their first final appearance since 1940, the Cats gained revenge.

Since then, it has been all downhill.

In 1980, they opened the door for success-starved Galway to bridge a 57-year gap. As Munster champions, Limerick went straight through to the decider that season.

In 1981, they again met Galway at headquarters, in the semi-finals, and were beaten in a replay.

Limerick had to wait 13 years for their next big day at Croke Park, losing to Offaly in what is written into the history books as the five- minute final. With the Limerick multitude awaiting the handing over of the trophy, they led by five points, Offaly put in a sensational rally to score 2-5 and claim victory. To rub salt into wounds, Eamonn Cregan, one of the stars of the 1973 triumph, plotted Offaly’s success.

Two years later, Tom Ryan brought them back to Croker. Antrim were brushed aside, More seasoned Wexford were next up.

Even though their opponents had a player sent off early in the game, Limerick returned home bridesmaids.

Next appearance in Dublin was against Kilkenny, in the 2005 quarter-finals. Again, no joy. In 2007, Richie Bennis, like Tom Ryan, a member of the 1973 team, took Limerick to final day only for Brian Cody and his men to put a halt to their gallop.

If there was any consolation that season, it was that the Croke Park hoodoo against so-called equal hurling powers was temporarily halted with wins over Clare and Waterford in the qualifiers.

Back to the same old story in 2009, when after winning through to the semi-finals, via the backdoor system, they were hammered by Tipperary in Dublin.

Having claimed the scalps of hurling powers Tipperary and Cork on their home patch this season, and with both Tipperary and Kilkenny out of the frame, Limerick had reason to have hopes raised of an end to their great famine.

Caught up in their own hype, they lost the plot to Clare. Reared on a diet of failure on big match occasions, Limerick and their fans, as had so often happened in the past, swallowed the pre-match hype while Clare, waiting in the long grass, went about their business.

It’s not just the seniors. Limerick has claimed just three All-Ireland MHC, the last, in 1984 Centenary Year, won in Thurles.

Their Croke Park successes were in 1940 and 1958.

In the 2005 final, they surrendered to Galway in, wait for it, Croke Park and lost to the same opponents in last weekend’s semi- finals.

The county’s tale of woe does not end there.

Limerick have yet to win an All-Ireland Club SHC, beaten finalists on three occasions at Croke Park.

In 1990, Ballybrown went under to Ballyhale Shamrocks, one year later, Patrickswell lost out to Glanmore, and in ’93, Kilmallock suffered the same fate at the hands of Sarsfields of Galway. 20 years on, and they remain out in the cold.

Yes, Limerick are in the record books for four All-Ireland U21 hurling titles, all, it should be mentioned, won at provincial venues.

Lady luck has definitely not been on Limerick’s side when it comes to the national stage. The county has produced outstanding teams and individuals over the decades, their fans are the most loyal in the land, with no shortage of dedicated officials behind the scenes.

But statistics such as those outlined above do not make for pleasant reading.

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