News Billy Keane

Friday 19 September 2014

Limerick deserves this game - it's a sporting city worth fighting for

Published 30/08/2014 | 02:30

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Limerick Gaelic Grounds ahead of the Semi-Final replay between Kerry and Mayo
Limerick Gaelic Grounds ahead of the Semi-Final replay between Kerry and Mayo
Kerry and Mayo flags fly outside the Ardhú Bar on the Ennis Road, Limerick ahead of the Semi-Final Replay
Kerry and Mayo flags fly outside the Ardhú Bar on the Ennis Road, Limerick ahead of the Semi-Final Replay
Groundsman Conor Grene, from Ballybricken, Co. Limerick, cuts the grass at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, ahead of the Semi-Final replay between Kerry and Mayo
Groundsman Conor Grene, from Ballybricken, Co. Limerick, cuts the grass at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, ahead of the Semi-Final replay between Kerry and Mayo

We will begin with a lesson in geography. Question 1.Where is Limerick and why has the city been partitioned from the rest of Ireland?

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Next class up is economics. Economists and accountants do not include a column in their ledgers headed 'happiness' and we were told the GAA are supposed to have put money before ethos.

They'll be wallpapering the Premium Suites with dollars after this weekend's big American football game but the bounty will spread down the country.

Limerick gets a big game, and the GAA got this one spot on. They have spread the largesse around all of Ireland and to a stadium which only hosts a couple of big games every year.

We have witnessed unconnected collective thinking on the playing of the All Ireland semi-final in Limerick. Some went so far as to suggest that it was a form of treason to rent out the Holy Ground to the Yanks. "We will rid Ireland of the invaders," they screamed. "Like we did Garth Brooks, the Tans and the lad the Bull McCabe murdered."

Degenerated

And as always in every Irish debate of any consequence, the discussion degenerated in to a "was this what we died for in 1916?"

Then there's the players who are being denied the right to play on the blood-drenched acres of Croke Park. Here's one for you. Kerry and Mayo have played six times in Croke Park in the last year. Dublin has benefited enormously from all the games over the years.

The day out for Kerry and Mayo fans will cost about half as much as travelling to Dublin. So here is the geography lesson. Limerick is actually in Ireland. Check it out on Google maps.

The Gaelic Grounds is a fine stadium and the people of Limerick would swim the Shannon for you.

What was particularly shocking was the fact that nearly all of our sports commentators were on the one word. One or two set the agenda and the rest followed, unable either to think independently, or to take the time to rationalise, or to face up to standing out from the crowd.

Most wrote 'ah I have nothing against Limerick'. Well ye had nothing for Limerick either.

"Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.'' So wrote Tolstoy. Never I have been so sure of my ground. Limerick is the right place for this match.

Kerry's Willie Sexton owns the Ardhu Bar, 500 metres from the stadium. He will take on 30 extra staff today. The 4 Star Strand Hotel will pay out an extra ¤20,000 in wages this weekend. The story is replicated all over the city.

Dublin has enough and more than enough. We are not a one county republic. The GAA should bring in a rule that every All-Ireland semi-final replay should be played 'down the country' and all quarter-finals staged outside of Croke Park.

There isn't much room for the match. Kerry could win, maybe after extra-time and I'm happy for Lee Keegan. Let there be no excuses.

This could be another classic between two fiercely motivated and classy teams in a city well used to miracle matches.

When Thomond Park was in the womb, a dozen or so families moved out of their houses to ensure the stadium redevelopment could go ahead. The locals gave up their homes, for small enough money, because they loved Munster and they loved Limerick.

This is the story of a city that has fought back from the abyss. The city of Roy Collins, who was murdered by violent men. His family fled for their own safety but came home because Limerick was a city worth fighting for.

But Limerick is as safe for the visitor as any other city in Ireland. The welcome, though, exceeds all others.

I can think of no better place for the playing of a big game.

It is us who should be grateful. Than you Limerick for having us.

Irish Independent

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