After four years of peace the attempted murder of Christy Keane brought back chilling memories of the bad old days for the people of Limerick.
A city that 10 years ago had one of the highest per-capita rates of gangland violence in Europe now enjoys some of the lowest serious crime levels after the warring mobs were smashed in the longest, most sustained and successful garda operation in the history of the state.
With most of the killers and their godfathers behind bars, relief and optimism has replaced the sense of fear and chaos that once pervaded the streets in the sprawling estates of the Treaty City.
The citizens have good reason to hope that the bloodshed and madness that defined the likes of the Dundon/McCarthys - Murder Inc. - have been consigned to history.
But news that one of the city's most notorious crime bosses was shot several times in a well-planned execution-style attack has evoked fears that the mindless thugs are again plotting to plunge Limerick into another gang war.
Keane (55) who is still heavily involved in organised crime, had been keeping his head down since his release from prison in 2009 after serving just over seven years of a 10 year sentence for drug trafficking.
The two assassins lay in wait for the godfather to arrive for his usual work out in the gym at the University of Limerick.
Both of the masked attackers were armed and were it not for a degree of luck and the fact that he managed to make a run for it, Keane would have surely been killed.
Gardaí are now working on the theory that the assassination attempt was a clear signal from the old Dundon/McCarthy/Ryan gang that they have not forgiven or forgotten their blood feud.
One area of investigation will be to establish if the attack was ordered to coincide with the release from prison in August of Kieran 'Rashers' Ryan one of the sons of Keane's former enforcer, Eddie Ryan.
The Ryan brothers swore vengeance on Keane following the murder of their violent father who was gunned down in a city pub in November 2000.
The killing came just two days after Eddie Ryan tried to shoot Christy Keane as he sat in a car but the weapon jammed.
A total of 14 shots were fired by Keane's younger brother Kieran and another close ally, Philip Collopy, which also seriously injured three innocent women.
That incident sparked the beginning of a low-intensity urban war between the Ryans and their allies and relatives on one side and the Keane/Collopys on the other.
Less than a year after Christy Keane was imprisoned the Dundon/McCarthys joined forces with the Ryans in a bid to wipe out the leadership of the drug gang.
Kieran Keane was shot dead and his nephew, Eoin Treacy left for dead, when they walked into a trap set by the Dundons in January 2003 in what was the equivalent of a gangland coup.
The Dundon/McCarthy's, led by psychotic brothers John and Wayne Dundon, had organised an extraordinary double cross.
Murder Inc. had "kidnapped" Eddie Ryan's two sons on behalf of Kieran Keane who wanted them both dead.
Eoin Treacy survived and his testimony later resulted in five members of the Dundon/McCarthy mob being jailed for life.
But the incident unleashed a decade of violence which was to claim over 20 lives and leave scores more scarred and maimed in bombings, stabbings and arson attacks.
The attempted murder of Christy Keane is one of the most incendiary incidents to happen in Limerick for several years and garda expect he will seek revenge on his enemies.
The gardaí in Limerick made it clear yesterday that they are determined to prevent a return to the mindless violence.
The detective branch in the city is the most capable and effective in the country and their record - the conviction of scores of gun men and killers - speaks for itself.
History has shown that there is never room for complacency and an incident like this must be nibbed in the bud immediately.