As Limerick won a first Munster senior hurling title since 1996 at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, one man with a grandstand view has a unique link to Limerick past and Limerick future.
Eamonn Cregan is generally recognised as one of the county’s finest players and a pivotal member of the last team from Shannonside to win an All-Ireland back in 1973.
As a selector with the Limerick minor team that almost shocked favourites Waterford in a thrilling curtain-raiser, Cregan had a perfect position to watch a dramatic day unfold.
“We’ve been starved of success for so long, for it to finally happen was such a relief. I was looking around the ground in the minutes before the final whistle and to see the crowds coming in over the barriers, crowding around the pitch – I haven’t seen that since the 60s, when Cork and Tipperary played in the Gaelic Grounds. It just went to show how hungry we were for this win, how badly we need a Munster title.”
And Cregan hopes that this bunch will soon start winning more hearts and minds in the city and county. “That’s the beauty of it. We (the 1973 team) were the old heroes, these crotchety old fellas walking around! Well people have new players to look up to now and with rugby going so strong in the city and county, we needed that in Limerick. Maybe the pendulum will swing towards hurling again! The number of times we’ve lost big games by a point or two, right through our history — far too often.”
From repeated adversity can come misery, and well Cregan knows that, well Limerick knows it. From adversity also though, depending on attitude, can come strength.
“I think losing to Tipperary last year was a good experience in many ways, they learned so much from that game. Having an eight-point lead and losing it, it’s only through those kind of experiences you get tough enough to stay in a game and win the tight battles.
“Okay, there were two occasions yesterday where the ball skimmed across the front of our goals and went out wide and losing a man was also a blow to Cork, but far too often we were on the wrong side of those breaks.
“What we have now is an intelligent team. I’m not saying you have to have gone to college or anything like that. It’s hurling intelligence and that’s vital — go back to the great Kerry team of the 80s and they had it. John Allen is setting the right tone, taking one game at a time. If you start to dream of an All-Ireland final now you’ll end up taking your eye off the semi-final — lose that and what good are your dreams? The next match is the most important match.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved