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Hurling

Limerick - the greatest hurling team of this year and of all time

On September 6th, 1936, the Limerick senior hurlers defeated Kilkenny in Croke Park to secure the...



Limerick - the greatest hurlin...
Hurling

Limerick - the greatest hurling team of this year and of all time

On September 6th, 1936, the Limerick senior hurlers defeated Kilkenny in Croke Park to secure the county's second All-Ireland triumph in three years. Little over a half-century since the GAA had been established, the accomplished display of Mick Mackey and his teammates signified for many not only the high-point of Limerick's storied past, but of hurling itself. As GAA President Robert O'Keeffe presented the trophy to Mackey after their 5-6 to 1-5 win, he proclaimed: "They have established the name of Limerick as the greatest hurling team of this year, and not only that, but the greatest hurling combination of all time." Only a flavour of the compliments he showered on that collection of players, Sunday's All-Ireland final presents this current Limerick team with an opportunity to match the feat of 1936. Although it is uncertain what victory would mean for their reputation, it is possible to understand its impact over 80 years ago. Going deep into the newspaper archives, this is the story of their momentous triumph told through those who were there to chronicle it. 

*****

“The Limerick hurlers commenced a course of training at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, on Monday evening, in preparation for the All-Ireland Final, in which they meet Kilkenny at Croke Park on Sunday, September 6th.”

Limerick Leader, 29/8/36

“Coming to the present year and getting near to the task at hand, Limerick had a triumphant tour in America, and were given a bye to the Munster final.”

J. B., Sunday Independent, 6/9/36

“Although there was not a dull moment all afternoon, the expected dropping of sticks… in favor of the old-fashioned fists failed to materialize. There was not a single fist fight, and the festivities, rough as they were, produced few hurry calls for the doctor.”

Arthur J. Daly, The New York Times, 18/5/36

“They played two games in New York and one in Boston, adding further triumphs to a remarkable record.”

Evening Echo, 5/9/36

“Any doubts that may have been entertained as to whether Limerick would have weakened on their return from the States were dispelled when they scored a smashing victory over a fancied Tipperary side. Allowing that Tipperary, and particularly their defence, did not come up to expectations, I think I have never seen Limerick in better form than in winning the Munster title at Thurles.”

J. B., Sunday Independent, 6/9/36

“Last night the Limerick hurling team brought their training to an end. They assembled at the Shannon Rowing Club for the final massage, all looking remarkably fit. M. Fitzgibbon, who captained Limerick in the 1933 final, and who has been in charge of the team during training, told an Irish Independent representative that he was confident of victory. “You can take it from me,” he said, “that Limerick will win no matter what the weather will be like. I do not underestimate Kilkenny, but I am confident we will triumph in what should be the greatest game in history.” Mick Mackey, the Limerick captain, when asked as to Limerick’s prospects, stated: “I have no doubt of the ability of my team to win through, but it is going to be a hard struggle.””

Irish Independent, 4/9/36

“The average age of the players is around 26 years and the approximate weight 12 stone. Mick Mackey, who captains the team, son of “Tyler” Mackey, a well-known hurler in his day, is only 23 years, and his brother Jack 22.”

Evening Echo, 5/9/36

““Tyler” is still as sprightly and as active as he was a quarter of a century ago, and when I interview him at The Hermitage, Castleconnell, I found him engaged in haymaking. He stated that he can still swing a caman with the ease of any of the present day hurlers. Asked if he considered the game had improved and if the present Munster champions were superior to the provincial title-holders of 1910-11, he would not admit that there was any appreciable difference. “The games of those days were as good as the games to-day,” he asserted.”

Nenagh Guardian, 29/8/36

“Nothing has been spared in preparation, and between two determined, well-trained teams both bent on victory, it should be a fine struggle. Glamour is added through the memorable battle of twelve months ago, when in a downpour of rain, a record crowd saw Kilkenny defeat Limerick by a point after one of the most remarkable tests of speed, skill, and endurance ever witnessed on the hurling field.”

J. B. Sunday Independent, 6/9/36

“The Limerick team will leave by special train tomorrow arriving at Kingsbridge at 6.30.”

Irish Independent, 4/9/36

“The All-Ireland hurling finalists, Limerick and Kilkenny, will be present at Shelbourne Park tomorrow night, and the management have arranged a special programme in their honour.”

Evening Herald, 4/9/36

“With thirty big trains coming into Dublin this evening and tomorrow, with practically every bus from outlying districts chartered for early arrival in the city, and with accommodation in Croke Park for close on 65,000 spectators, tomorrow’s hurling final between Kilkenny and Limerick bids fair to be the greatest in the annals of the Gaelic Athletic Association. It seems, writes and Irish Independent representative, as if the fifty years’ progress of the G.A.A. had been concentrated on making this an epic final. With the sod in perfect condition, the seating and standing accommodation around the arena of the finest, the stage is set for tomorrow’s struggle… During the week some visitors from England and Scotland paid visits to Croke Park, and said that the sod was better than anything they had ever seen on a playing pitch.”

Irish Independent, 5/9/36

“The selection of a Corkman, Mr. James O’Regan, as referee is a tribute to his unquestionable ability and impartiality. The responsibility is a heavy one, and I am convinced that the respective teams will not manifest a disposition to render his burden more irksome than need be.”

Evening Echo, 5/9/36

“Mr. P. J. O’Keeffe, General Secretary and Manager, G.A.A., said that elaborate arrangements had been made to control the huge crowd. Two hundred special stewards will take their allotted places at 11.45 a.m. So great had been the demand for travelling facilities from all parts of Ireland, that he believed the attendance will be the biggest recorded at any sporting event in this country… The Kilkenny and Limerick teams will take the field at 2.50. They will be preceded to the centre of the arena by the O’Toole Pipers’ Band and the Artane Brass and Reed Band. Mr. James O’Regan, the famous Cork hurler, will start the game at 3 o’clock following the playing of the National Anthem… Loud speakers are being installed on the grounds to help in the control of the crowds.”

Irish Independent, 5/9/36

“It is doubtful if, in the whole history of the GAA, any game has aroused greater interest and enthusiasm than the All-Ireland final between Kilkenny and Limerick to be played at Croke Park.”

J. B. Sunday Independent, 6/9/36

*****

Limerick 5-6 Kilkenny 1-5, Croke Park, September 6th, 1936

In front of a record crowd in excess of 50,000 people, Limerick delivered on their trainer Mike Fitzgibbon's confidence and saw out a conclusive victory. The county's fourth successive final appearance, their second win in this run solidified the reputation of a team that was also on its way to winning the National Hurling League five times on the trot. Between captain Mick Mackey and the Kilkenny duo of Paddy Phelan and Lory Meagher, three future members of the GAA's Hurling Team of the Millennium were on show on that day in Croke Park. Indeed, as Kilkenny contested one of the eight finals they would feature in between 1931 and 1940, the county had already established itself as hurling's dominant force. It is understandable then in a sporting sense why this final took on such importance in its time. 

*****

“With lion-hearted courage for the third time in three years they faced their conquerors and like heroes every man rose to the occasion determined to do and dare for the honour of Limerick. It was their fourth successive appearance in Croke Park and they lined out eager for the fray, their green jerseys bordered with white in keeping with the lovely sward. Beneath the crests on those jerseys beat hearts of steel, every man true to his trust.”

Limerick Leader, 12/9/36

“The start of a great match saw Kilkenny on the attack. Inside the first couple of minutes we saw the kind of stuff the Limerick defence was made of, and it must have cheered the Shannonside supporters to see the Limerick backs as steady as a rock under pressure… Then we saw Mick Mackey really get going. He started off on a solo run, streaked past two defenders as if they had been standing still, and helped himself to a point.”

Irish Press, 7/9/36

“The pace is killing. Limerick set it and Mick Mackey moves like a deer to the other end for a great goal. Flags, hats, caps and green and white umbrellas soar in the air as the thousands cheer on the men of Thomond. Like greyhounds from the leash they outpace, outrace, our-manouevre and outplay the craft Noremen.”

Limerick Leader, 12/9/36

“It was not a game of man for man, for Limerick’s superabundance of dash made it the rule that their second man always joined the man engaged.”

Drogheda Independent, 12/9/36

“Thirteen minutes were gone and Limerick were leading by 1-3 to 0-1… In twenty-one minutes Limerick got through for their second goal. Again the Mackeys were the prime movers in attack, and a well-directed ball found Dave Clohessy in the right corner. Dave’s centre to McMahon was almost sitting up and begging to be buried in the net, and McMahon duly obliged.”

Irish Press, 7/9/36

“A lead of two points at the interval was more than deserved by the victors… A strong Limerick finish was anticipated as the game as resumed … [and they] set about business in more earnest fashion and set their rivals a pace that was never before equaled.”

Limerick Leader, 12/9/36

Limerick

“Hurling with great dash, they were into their stride right from the restart, and in the first ten minutes we saw Kilkenny’s chance almost wiped out. Mick Mackey started a move that ended in Dave Clohessy goaling, and Limerick were through again for another goal that was disallowed. This failed to check them. Mick Mackey, the irrepressible, was off again on a dazzling run, with the ball apparently glued to his caman, and the inevitable point followed."

Irish Press, 7/9/36

“Those solo runs of Mickey Mackey, yo-yoing the ball on his hurley, need some explanation other than to say that he performed them, and why Kilkenny’s defence always fled from him as the sunned spectators shrieked “Here he comes again!” will remain a mystery.”

Drogheda Independent, 12/9/36

“Kilkenny battled with the pluck and craft traditional of their county; but they had not the speed of Limerick, nor, strange though it may appear, were they as quick and true in striking.”

Irish Independent, 7/9/36

“A sea of green and white colour shot skywards. It was a scene never to be forgotten. To the disappointed Kilkenny followers with the black and amber floating from flagstaffs mounted with black cats the old war-cry of “Remember Limerick” took on a new significance.”

Limerick Leader, 12/9/36

“As we saw them yesterday, Limerick are a wonderful team. They have gone on improving; but in earnestness and determination they are beyond compare.”

Irish Independent, 7/9/36

“The memory of that magnificent struggle for supremacy will forever abide with those who witnessed it. Anything I might write would fall far short of a true pen-picture of that grand exposition of skill, speed and spirit employed by those masterful hurling men during that glorious battle which was so rich in the things which send spectators wild for joy."

Drogheda Independent, 12/9/36

“There were animated scenes on the Hogan Stand, where Mick Mackey, captain of the Limerick team, was presented with the silver cup – the Trophy for the Hurling Final. Mr. Robert O’Keeffe, President of the Central Council, G.A.A., making the presentation said:

“Gaels of Limerick, I wish to congratulate you on this great victory and to congratulate Mick Mackey, captain, on his magnificent team of hurlers. I congratulate them on writing the historic name of Limerick on the coveted roll of honour of Ireland’s Championship list. By their victory here today they have established the name of Limerick as the greatest hurling team of this year, and not only that, but the greatest hurling combination of all time."

“But that is,” he continued, “what we Gaels expect from the descendants of the men who manned the walls of Limerick in the days gone by; from those who made history around the ruins of Bruree and Ballyneety, or the storied slopes of Knockany”… Mick Mackey thanked Mr. O’Keeffe for his great tribute, and then called for cheers for Kilkenny.”

Irish Independent, 7/9/36

“Limerick, the All-Ireland hurling champions, were given a tumultuous reception when they arrived in Limerick last night from Dublin after winning the blue riband of the Gaelic world from Kilkenny. A crowd estimated at 15,000 gathered in the vicinity of the railway terminus to welcome the players. Bonfires blazed at different points around, and the illuminations made an impressive scene. The train arrived an hour and a half behind schedule having been delayed at various points along the route by enthusiasts anxious to show their appreciation of the team’s process… The attendance at the station included a considerable number of clergy, G.A.A. officials, and prominent people of every walk of life in Limerick.”

Evening Echo, 8/9/36

“Dear ‘Thomond’ – Through you I have much pleasure in congratulating our Limerick hurlers on their glorious victory over Kilkenny on Sunday. They are All-Ireland’s Champions for 1936. Nay, they are World Champions. For 40 years I have followed the game, and never yet have I seen such a combination. Kilkenny are marvellous hurlers, but I have no hesitation in saying that for the past three years they were not equal to Limerick.”

“Letters to the Editor”, Limerick Leader, 12/9/36

“An interesting story of a Limerick boy’s prophetic dream was told on Sunday before the start of the All-Ireland hurling final in Dublin between Limerick and Kilkenny. This boy dreamt some nights ago that he was at the match, but had to leave at half-time. When the contest was over, however, he thought he met a pressman who told him in answer to an inquiry that Limerick had won by 21 points to 8 – which was actually the result yesterday. The story of this remarkable coincidence could have been nothing in the nature of a “make-up” since it was told in a private house in Limerick on Sunday to a party waiting for the broadcast of the match to commence.”

Limerick Leader, 12/9/36

*****

Related Reads:

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1936 All-Ireland Hurling Final All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Evening Echo Evening Herald Irish Independent Kilkenny Limerick Limerick Leader Mick Mackey Nenagh Guardian Sunday Independent

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