There was something almost surreal about it. For over twenty minutes, you could practically hear a pin drop. This was a crowd of over 30,000 people stunned to near silence by what they were seeing play out in front of them.
This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. A century of conditioning told them otherwise and, yet, here it was. Limerick in town, putting it up to the Kingdom on their home patch.
Even though the Shannonsiders had been a coming force for the best part of two or three years, even though they'd secured a draw in the Gaelic Grounds mere days beforehand, it was still quite a lot to take in for the denizens of the green and gold.
Limerick weren't just competing. They were in their absolute pomp. They were lording it. A goal from Stephen Kelly inside the opening 60 seconds set the tone. No fear. Clear hearts. They marched on.
For their manager, Liam Kearns, it was no great surprise. It was four years of toil coming to fruition. This was the team - his team - at their most complete. The Treaty pushed seven points clear of the Kingdom in Fitzgerald Stadium in the first half.
They were more than good value for their lead too, and that's probably the thing that caught the home crowd most by surprise. It took a blistering goal from Eoin Brosnan to check Limerick's progress and - Kerry being what Kerry are - they found a way out of Dodge.
Jack O'Connor's home side ran out four point winners in the end - 3-10 to 2-9 - but the point had been made: Limerick were a serious football team and their manager was a serious football man. The gusto with which Kerry players and supporters alike celebrated afterwards told you all you needed to know.
Limerick's ascendancy over the green and gold might have been fleeting, but it was glorious while it lasted. Kearns had succeeded in rattling the cage. It wasn't the first one he shook. It wouldn't be the last...
Like so many of the best things in life, the Tralee man's route into management came about almost by chance. Certainly it was never Kearns' intention to forge a coaching career for himself. As it turns out, the now-retired Garda was simply following orders.
"I went to the Garda College as a gym instructor in the 90s," he explains.
"When I went to the Garda College they were just at the time trying to get into colleges football. They basically told me what they were trying to do and I was told I was in charge of the college's football team. So I had no choice! It was my job.
"The beauty of it was I was their Sergeant in the college - their instructor. It didn't matter what my experience was or my age. They had to listen to me really. They were a bit like me. I'd no choice but to do the job and they'd no choice but to listen, because they were working."
With some serious talent at their disposal - guys like future Roscommon and Galway stars Fergal O'Donnell and Kevin Walsh - Kearns and the Garda College weren't long in making a name for themselves.
In their first season in the Trench Cup they won it and in their second year retained it. They then moved up to the Sigerson Cup for 1995, reaching the semi-final in their first season in the big leagues.
Templemore went on to contest the final the following season, drawing the final before losing in a replay to Trevor Giles' UCD. Just the first of many cages to be rattled by Kearns in his career in management.
His experience with the Garda College not only opened doors - clubs weren't long in coming calling - it opened his eyes too. It was something he was not only good at, it was something he enjoyed. It became an itch he just had to scratch.
Indeed, there were things from his own playing days with the Kerry minors, Under 21s and with Austin Stacks that resonated with him in hindsight. Things that would, over the years, inform his career in management.
"I played with Austin Stacks and we had a tremendous squad of players. We had an unbelievable squad and we totally underachieved," he explains.
"Now that was put down to the fact that the boys were concentrating on Kerry and they were winning All Irelands with Kerry, and we were second then and they'd come back with us. We played the championship after Kerry were done with the All Ireland, but I felt that we were just so predictable.
"It was just a case of hand the ball to Mikey Sheehy and every team in the county knew that. I felt anyway that it wasn't managed properly, and it was a waste of talent."
It was a similar story with the Kerry Under 21s, where Kearns felt he and his colleagues never got the focus and attention they deserved. The senior management team was in charge of both teams and obviously more concentrated on the task of winning senior All Ireland titles.
"There was a generation of footballers lost around that period in Kerry because we won so many All Irelands at senior. I learned in both inter-county and club what not to do if you want to be successful in management," he says.
Those formative experiences instilled an almost waste not, want not credo in Kearns. It was something that would stand him in good stead over the years, and particularly when it came to the next big challenge of his career in Limerick.
Before he took the reins of the county side, however, he first got involved at underage level in the county with city side Na Piarsaigh and, most significantly, west Limerick outfit Dromcollogher / Broadford.
"I took them on as minor and we won minor, Under 21, junior and intermediate," he explains.
"They became the most successful team in Limerick. They won a senior [after Kearns' tenure]. They won a Munster - they beat Nemo Rangers. When I came they were a junior hurling team and a junior football team, but they were seen as a hurling club."
The grounding he had from underage club football in Limerick proved utterly essential when he took the Limerick job in the year 2000.
"I went in there to do the senior team and I realised fairly quickly that things were bad at senior level," he says.
"They didn't have the players and the culture there was really poor. Away trips were drinking sessions and it was very bad. I think there was only London behind them in the pecking order in Ireland at the time.
"I realised the problems there and I took on the Under 21s as well. I had a good idea there was some reasonable footballers at Under 21, but having said that they hadn't won anything at minor. The group that we won the Munster Under 21 title with and got to the All Ireland final with they'd won nothing at minor - been beaten by Cork or Kerry in the first round.
"We needed a break and Anthony Davis was over Cork [Under 21s]. They were star-studded and hot favourites to win the All Ireland. We went down and nobody gave us a chance and we beat them. That put us in the final and on the same night Waterford beat Kerry in the other semi-final.
"That was unheard of - a Limerick v Waterford Munster final in Dungarvan. We beat them as well.
"I knew there was some talent in the county, but I had to concentrate on the young players. There were some good established players in the seniors like John Quane and Diarmuid Sheehy and Muiris Gavin wasn't actually [a regular with the seniors], he was on the fringes but I got him.
"They were three of the older guys, but I'd say we got ten of that Under 21 team and made senior players out of them - because we had no choice. They turned out to be the mainstay of the Limerick football team for ten years."
To win that Munster title in 2000 and to reach the All Ireland final - which they lost to a famous Tyrone side managed by Mickey Harte - was a monumental achievement. It set up Limerick for the next decade.
Kearns started small with the seniors, targeting what was achievable. Starting with McGrath Cups, building on that, growing confidence all the time as they climbed the divisions in the National League. They were unlucky to lose out to Westmeath in the Division 2 final at Croke Park.
Bringing Limerick down to Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2003 in the Munster championship was a big turning point.
"Everybody assumed because we'd lost the Division 2 final that we were sitting ducks, but we went down and that was Larry Tompkins last game in charge of the Cork seniors," he says.
"We beat them by ten points in the rain. That put us into our first Munster final. Kerry beat us (1-11 to 0-9). They were too good for us, but that's what we expected."
The following year, 2004 - with the draw and the replay in the Munster final - that was the year. That was the one that got away, Kearns feels, and much more so in the drawn game at the Gaelic Grounds than the more famous replay in Fitzgerald Stadium.
"I'll be honest with you - it hurt very badly. I really was disappointed for that group that they didn't manage to win one Munster title, because they deserved it," he says.
"Remember that year, Kerry, they won the league final after beating us by a point [in the semi-final] and after beating us after a replay in the Munster final nobody came within ten points of them to win the All Ireland then. That'll tell you how good and how close that Limerick team were."
After that Kearns felt it was time to move on. He'd done as much as he could with the players he had. He even had an offer of a job with Galway, but was persuaded - against his better instincts - to give it one more go. He had, after all, got such unbelievable commitment from his players.
"The reality for that Limerick team was that I had a set of players and there was no conveyor belt of players coming through," he says
"You're doing very well to stay if they're the same group or essentially the same group listening to you at that stage. I would say it's very difficult to be staying longer than three years and after that you have to be progressing to justify staying on."
The Limerick journey came to a natural end and, while a two-year spell with Laois brought mixed fortunes, the first phase of the Austin Stacks man's inter-county career was winding down.
"That was around the time that management at inter-county level was becoming more and more serious. I said 'you can't do this seriously and work full-time'. I finished that and said I'd stay out of inter-county management until I'd retired. And that's what I did."
Kearns, of course, didn't walk away from management after he left Laois in 2008. He remained involved at club level, helping Aherlow to a Tipperary title and very nearly turning over Dr Crokes in Munster. He even returned to the colleges scene with UL, all the while studying for a degree himself with Setanta College.
"I finished the degree and decided I wanted to go back into inter-county, he explains.
"John Evans was training Roscommon and we'd be good friends so I said I've been out of inter-county for five or six years and I said I'd go back in as coach under John to see how things have changed. And, my god, I couldn't believe it. In my six years away it was like a metamorphosis.
"The thing has gone to a different level. The commitment and technology that's being used at inter-county level is unreal. We won the Division 2 league title and got up to Division 1 and then, as you know, John was shafted out of Roscommon. At that stage then I went to Tipperary as I'd been with Aherlow."
Tipperary, of course, were the second great act of the Tralee man's career. Another chance to rattle some more cages and upset the order of things. Even then, though, the challenge was much greater than he'd anticipated.
"I got the Tipperary job, but all the players that I thought I had when I got the job I didn't have them at all," he explains.
"Steven O'Brien was gone hurling. Colin O'Riordan was gone to Australia. Paddy Codd told me he was retiring. It was an eye-opener, and when I turned up Clonmel were in the club Munster final. They won that so we ended up without the Clonmel players, without Paddy Codd, Steven O'Brien and all these players and then I just said to myself 'my god'.
"It was quite similar to Limerick. Not as bad, but similar. We managed to survive in Division 3 and we were getting ready for the championship. The next thing three or four of them informed us that they were going to the United States for the summer.
"That was Liam Casey and a couple more. At that stage things were fairly bad and we went from that to an All Ireland semi-final, which was some going."
Making do with that he has. That's what made Liam Kearns the manager that he is. Where others might have been inclined to throw their hat at it, he set about extracting the maximum out of the situation in 2016. Taking the scalps of Derry and, most famously, Galway along the way before facing Mayo for a place in the final on the third Sunday in September.
"I looked that at that Mayo game again there only recently and it was an All Ireland semi-final that we could have won. We were actually good enough to get to an All Ireland final," he stresses.
"We led them for thirty minutes. It was a bit like that Kerry Munster final. We played great football, were the better team for the first thirty minutes, and Colm O'Shaughnessy was coming out with a ball, gave a bad pass, and they went in and stuck it in the back of the net. Totally against the run of play. They proceeded to score 1-6 or seven in a ten-minute period before half-time."
Even then Tipperary didn't give up. They didn't give up after Robbie Kiely was sent off either. They pushed all the way to the end, getting back to within a handful of points before Mayo pulled away.
"I was fierce proud of our guys," Kearns says.
"At the end of the day it's about players and I'd great players in both [counties]. I'll tell you I worked with some of the best midfielders in the country. John Galvin and John Quane were as good as there was and Peter Acheson was outstanding with Tipperary as well like.
"The difference was Tipperary had a couple of quality forwards, [Conor] Sweeney and [Michael] Quinlivan. In Limerick that's all we were short that one quality forward and god only knows what we could have done. If we got over Kerry in the Munster final, who knows what we would have done.
"What I have found over the years is that Kerry [find a way] - and Kerry beat me in the Munster finals with Limerick and Kerry beat us in Tipperary. It's tradition, but not so much [about] tradition. It's the fact that they're in high pressure-situations and games as often as they are.
"Kerry, every year, are involved in games that are high pressure and they don't panic and find a way to win. That Kerry team when Limerick were playing them were winning All Irelands regularly and they wouldn't panic."
To keep pushing and nipping at the heels of what Kearns describes as football's "superpowers" is something of a Sisyphean task. As enjoyable and satisfying as it is to ruffle feathers, it's still difficult to keep pushing that boulder up the hill. Few have done it with as much skill and accomplishment, however, as the former Kerry minor footballer.
Kearns is out of inter-county management for now, having left the Tipp job after the 2019 campaign. Boy did he give us some of the great days, though, when the boundaries of what we thought possible were tested. And, who knows to say, there won't be one or two more to come. It's what he does. What he's always done.