MY mother was a fantastic knitter. I remember the rhythmic swing of her knitting needles, balls of yarn, the variety of stitches – solid, inside out, crewneck, and rib – and how she would peek every now and then. on the grounds, usually taken from Woman’s Way magazine. .
Gradually, a sweater sleeve or a sock would begin to emerge, as if by magic. I would watch, transfixed. I even asked Mom to teach me how to knit.
But as with my other childhood passion, hurling, I didn’t progress very far. I only went to the simpler solid and reverse stitches, and gave up quite a few in my efforts to master the craft.
All of these childhood memories came back to me as I sat in the Hogan booth in Croke Park two weeks ago watching my native Limerick fight with Waterford for a place in the All Ireland hurling final.
It was the pure class of Limerick players, sewing their own kind of intricate patterns with hurley and hand passes, resulting in glorious scores from all angles of the pitch, that reminded me of my late mother’s genius.
These are dizzying days for all Limerick hurling fans. We’re just not used to sitting on top of this peak of greatness. After a 45-year famine, we now find ourselves winning our third hurling title in just four years.
What we have now, however, is a hurling team unique in a generation, which sets a new benchmark for skill, athleticism and tenacity in our old game.
There is no weak link in the team. From Nickie Quaid in the goal to Aaron Gillane in the top corner, they’re all great pitchers. Last year’s standout performers Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey were back at their best in the semi-finals.
Super cool Cian Lynch continues to display his hurling magic, while Seamus Flanagan, at full speed, seems to have found a radar-guided hurley, such is his precision. And at the head of this screaming orchestra of all talents is the calm and determined captain, Declan Hannon.
“They will be a team if they can turn the tide,” the man next to me told Pairc Ui Caoimh last month. It was half-time for the Munster final, which was being played in a stifling heatwave.
Tipperary led by 10 points and played majestically.
But conversely, Limerick did, ultimately winning by five points. It was a breathtaking second half, complemented by one of the greatest hurling goals ever.
What I liked was that the goalscorer was Kyle Hayes from my home parish of Kildimo-Pallaskenry.
Along with Tipperary, Cork were the traditional pillars of Munster hurling, Limerick, Clare and Waterford being the poor relatives.
There is a very strong and centuries-old rivalry between our neighboring counties. And over the years we have had many beatings from Cork.
Another “first”, given the lingering shadow of the Covid, was an attendance of 40,000 spectators.
Compare that with last year’s final which was played in an empty stadium, less than two weeks before Christmas!
A sort of normalcy is gradually returning, and while you’re not a die-hard sports fanatic, Sunday’s Croke Park show was worth celebrating for that reason alone.
One more thing. A century ago, the 1921 All Ireland hurling title was won by Limerick, although the game was not played until March 1923 due to the disruptions of the War of Independence and the civil war.
And for that year’s victory, they became the first recipients of the famous Liam MacCarthy Cup, presented at the time by the GAA for the All Ireland winners.