“Limerick by two goals”,“But you won’t get the ball” replied the Kilkenny man as the Dublin bound train left Maynooth station.
And so it was.
Kilkenny got the ball, Limerick didn’t and after 8 minutes or so they led by 9 points (2-3 to 0-0)
The underdogs,Limerick,had too much to do & the ‘Cats’ would win their 30th title.
The Guinness All Ireland Hurling Final is a very traditional Irish sporting spectacle. It was played on 2nd September at the Gaelic Athletic Association headquarters in Croke Park, Dublin before a sell-out crowd of over 82,000. Such is the interest that tickets can be sold for in excess of 500 euros on Ebay though on the streets, on the day, they were going for significantly less.
Hurling is an ancient, fast & furious Hockey-like game played 15-a-side on a large pitch of around 135 metres long x 90 metres wide with Rugby-style posts through which the ‘ball’ is sent in order to score. The Hurling stick is known as a Hurley.
And on this day in central Dublin there is a lot of hurley burley.
The city becomes crowded with green shirted & black/amber clad Hurling fans from the west(Limerick) and central (Kilkenny) counties of the Republic of Ireland. Mixed in with the throng are curious tourists getting an extra, unexpected example of Irish culture.
A fairly short walk from the main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, is Croke Park - named after an Archbishop. The stadium itself is steeped in history – not least the evocative open end,Hill 16, reputedly commemorating the 1916 Easter Uprising.
Inside the massive ground the two sets of fans, refreshingly mixed together & split approx. 60:40 in favour of Limerick, present a colourful image under a generally cloudy sky.
The event itself is infused with tradition & an amateur ethos that makes one smile with appreciation :-
the players marching around the pitch with the band in gladiatorial fashion before the start.
the close connection of the participants with their local area.
giving three cheers for the losers.
even the celebratory pitch invasion at the end was good hearted.
But most of the all the gracious & eloquent speech by the winning captain brought to mind a bygone age. It was in complete contrast to the stumbling & often incoherent efforts of the millionaire stars from Soccer’s Premier League.
Despite Limericks’ undoubted effort & commitment they couldn’t overcome the more skilled Kilkenny team in this final but whatever the result both sets of fans would enjoy their day out in Dublin’s fair city.
So if you do find yourself in Ireland go along to a Gaelic football or Hurling match as you’ll enjoy a fast moving game in a friendly, uniquely Irish environment.