Limerick look to emulate 1918 side as Kiely’s side bid for All Ireland Glory.
“History doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme”, so said Mark Twain and as the Limerick players take to the hallowed turf sometime after 3.15pm on Sunday next we hope that the gods of the Limerick verse will remember their rhyming couplets.
For the hand of history does rest lightly on John Kiely’s charges and while much emphasis is placed on bridging a 45 year gap, perhaps a more positive view could be taken by remembering that 100 years ago, a Limerick Team won the All Ireland Hurling Final of 1918 and in doing so they bridged a gap of 21 years that had stretched back to 1897.
There are a number of great similarities in the story to the final, not least that Limerick beat Galway in the semi-final which was played in the Markets Field on September 29th.
The story of that success also bears significant similarities in terms of management style. A whole new approach to inter-county hurling was taken that year. Up to that point the county champions had got to nominate their team to represent the county in the All Ireland series.
This is something now akin to the All Ireland club championship, but when Newcastlewest sensationally beat a strong Young Ireland team, they relinquished their claim to the selection of the county team and instead appointed a selection committee to seek out and pick the best players from across the county. This inspired, and at the time novel approach, brings another great similarity with the John Kiely era namely that youth was “given its head” and in the All Ireland winning team of that year all of the players were aged between 18 and 27 years.
The parallels continue as Limerick defeated Tipperary in a replay in the Cork Athletic Grounds after a titanic match in the Markets Field on July 7th in the Munster Semi-Final ended in a draw (5-3 a piece).
Again John Kiely’s wisdom was foreseen 100 years ago because in preparation for that replay the entire team were brought for a “training camp” to Foynes where the Paul Kinnerk of his day a man named Jim Dalton put the team through its paces. It had the desired effect and Limerick were in a Munster Final wherein another uncanny reflection of this year they met the Banner County. Unlike this year the match was played in Thurles (on Sept 15th) but the result was a resounding win for Limerick on a scoreline of 11-3 to 1-2.
As mentioned earlier Limerick disposed of Galway in the semi-final paving the way for an All Ireland Final date with Wexford.
No mention of 1918 can be made in Ireland without referring to the global and national political situation. The championship of that year was played at a time of great change in the world and less than 60 days after that Munster final was played the end of the “Great War” had come about. In addition, a great surge of nationalism had also swept Ireland following the execution of the 1916 leaders two years previously.
The British Forces were grimly holding onto their grasp of power in the country and in that summer the much mentioned “Gaelic Sunday” had taken place on August 4th, wherein direct contravention of an order prohibiting games 1500 games took place all over Ireland including a big game in the Markets Field between old rivals Claughaun and Young Ireland as well as a junior match between Shamrocks and Treaty which packed the Garryowen venue. While the result of neither match is recorded one result was clear that the British Forces were roundly defeated in their prohibition order.
All of the delays along the way meant that the 1918 final wasn’t played until January 26th 1919 and when Willie Hough from Monagea led his team out onto Croke Park he had the comfort of knowing that the team that accompanied him represented the very best hurlers that the “Treaty” had to offer.
The result was a resounding win for Limerick and the twelve thousand supporters that packed Croke Park on the day saw a display of hurling from Limerick that meant that the final result was never in doubt.
Great Limerick stars were born that day with Bob McConkey of Young Ireland scoring three goals (he added another four in his second medal year of 1921) with six other players all raising green flags.
The cup presented that day was a “Railway Cup” presented by the Great Southern and Western Railway Company and when Willie Hough of Monagea raised it aloft having received it from GAA President and proud Kilkenny man Jim Nowlan rapturous shouts of Luimneach Abu rang out around Jones Road.
It was to be the last time that Limerick would claim that trophy for when they returned to win in 1921 they became the first team to raise the Liam McCarthy Cup. So if Declan Hannon is standing on the steps of the Hogan Stand with the trophy in his hand at 5.15pm on Sunday next we can quite rightly say that “Liam is coming home”
For the record books the Limerick that team that day were Mick Murphy (Goals) Denny Lannigan, Bob McConkey, Paddy McInerney and Willie Gleeson ( Young Ireland) Paddy Kennedy and Dick Ryan (Pallas) Tom McGrath, Dan Troy and Mick Rochford (Claughaun) Jimmy Humphries and Willie Ryan (Cappamore) Jack Keane (Castleconnell) Paddy Barry (Boher) and of course the legendary Willie Hough of Monagea.
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