Scorcher on and off the pitch as Limerick topple hot favourites
A SCORCHER of a summer Sunday and the first big shock of the championship – what more could delighted Limerick fans ask for?
Deprived of much senior hurling success in recent years, Limerick supporters streamed on to the Gaelic Grounds pitch yesterday evening when the referee's final whistle signalled an unexpected win against a Tipperary team hotly tipped for the All-Ireland.
The celebrations after the game were colourful and raucous.
Tipp fans in the 19,507 attendance could scarcely believe it after being dumped out of the Munster hurling championship by their neighbours and keen rivals.
Kevin Tobin, from Murroe-Boher GAA club, travelled to the game with his mother, Margaret, and brother, William, to support their youngest brother, Seanie, who was playing corner-forward for Limerick.
To the delight of the Tobin family and all Limerick supporters, Seanie delivered the goods for his county with a first-half goal.
"We are absolutely over the moon – a very proud day for anyone who supports Limerick hurling," Kevin said afterwards. "We were out on the pitch afterwards with Seanie.
"It is great to see Limerick hurlers back in the Munster final – the first since 2007.
"It is badly needed here. Limerick is a proud hurling county and that could be seen by the celebrations after the final whistle went," Kevin added.
Jamie McNamara, from Adare, brought his wife, Bronagh, and their 20-month old daughter, Emily, to the match.
Jamie's younger brother, Wayne, plays for Limerick and he said Emily was "their lucky charm".
"There was tears in some fellas eyes out on the pitch afterwards. We haven't won anything yet but after the stuff we had to endure over the years, today's result is gladly welcomed," Jamie said.
Meanwhile, GAA financial wizards won't have been best pleased either by the numbers. Last week's Clare-Waterford tussle barely cleared the 12,000 mark in Thurles and yesterday's attendance fell almost 3,000 short of last year's Tipp-Limerick match.
Families know that their counties are guaranteed at least one more summer outing, win, lose or draw.
As the Munster Council point out in the match programme, ticket prices have been frozen for the last five years but live TV, the qualifiers and, mainly, the recession have affected the numbers arriving through the turnstiles.
Meanwhile, Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody returned to the sidelines in Tullamore following a heart operation. His side eventually overcame a battling performance by Offaly in O'Connor Park to reach the Leinster hurling semi-final.