Much of the coverage in the lead-up to Sunday’s Munster senior hurling final between champions Limerick and Cork has related to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
It has come in for a torrent of criticism – from Limerick especially – but that has been unfair, says Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy, a man more familiar with the park than most.
“My first memory is of the first Munster final in ’76 [the year Páirc Uí Chaoimh opened, the football final v Kerry] when there was pandemonium,” he said.
“The crowds ended up in around the touchline and the match barely concluded. It was the kind of thing we heard about from the ’40s and ’50s. Everyone was blown away with how to handle the massive crowd that turned up. Unfortunately, we lost the replay so it’s not my best memory.
“The ’85 Munster final was a very special occasion, against Tipperary, a good game for myself but a great game as well, a very special day for me. A few county finals with my club as well in football and hurling. I always loved it. The view there is second to none and the playing surface is the best in the country as far as I’m concerned, and teams who have visited say the same thing. It’s a fabulous hurling venue, hopefully we’ll do it justice on Sunday.
“I actually played a bit of both games on the night of the opening, against Kilkenny in hurling and Kerry in football. It was a stadium ahead of its time but it’s obviously gone past it’s sell-by date. Hopefully the new stadium will do credit to the GAA people of Cork, be something for us to look forward to and enjoy over the next few years.”
That much off his chest, the next question for Jimmy was whether or not Cork saw this game as an opportunity to gain a bit of revenge on Limerick for the Munster final loss. The home support ‘invaded’ the pitch at the end, covered it in a raucous sea of green. Could the Cork supporters likewise lift and inspire their team this Sunday?
“I don’t know. I was asked before the Clare game about the revenge factor and you can waste a lot of energy on these negative issues against different teams.
“Playing at home? I always loved playing at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and that’s a fact. I don’t know why, maybe psychologically it gives you an edge. We played Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds last year, they had a fabulous day there. Then they went to Thurles this year and beat Tipp, a fantastic achievement. So, is it an advantage? I don’t really know but we hope that it will be for us.”
Went to Thurles and beat Tipp. No-one should underestimate the significance of that achievement by Limerick, yet so many do. Like most observers Jimmy Barry-Murphy was surprised by it.
“It was a tremendous achievement and I’m not just saying that, not that they’ll take any notice of what I say anyway. I thought Tipp were going well enough to win at home but Limerick will always rise to the occasion. Being away doesn’t bother them, they took the game to Tipp.
“They’re a tough, battle-hardened team, have been around the block a few times, very few new players this year. Two excellent midfielders in James Ryan and Paul Browne, Donal O’Grady comes out from centre-forward to help them, a very good combination in that area. Then Richie McCarthy at full-back, a strong forceful player, Tom Condon and Seamus Hickey fine corner-backs. I think it’s going to be a ferocious battle for us on Sunday, going to be very, very hard to win.”
A bigger game for Cork perhaps than for Limerick, given that this team hasn’t won silverware of any description since 2006?
“Yeah, we’d love to win it obviously, a huge occasion for us. The lads are aware they’ve won nothing, they all want to win something, same as Limerick. The Munster final last year was a huge boost for them I’m sure but we’re desperate to win something. We’d like it to be an All-Ireland title but to get there, we’ll have to win the Munster final on Sunday, that’s what we’re gearing for.”
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