Limerick the sports capital of Europe

Limerick is a gloomy at this time of the year but the sun has shone on us (the Australians) with a great result in the first test and the warmth and affection shown by the locals to the team from the antipodes.

With unemployment rate of 25% plus it is interesting to hear that Limerick was recently crowned the sporting capital of the EC.  Given the crowd that turned up to witness the first test it was not surprising.  Everywhere in the town banners with welcome signs flourished and an Italian Rugby League team was also in town for the weekend.   The local Council have just spent 20 million Euro on sports  facilities according to the local Mayor Anne Byrne the 484th Mayor of the city.  She sees sport as something that can help the locals out of their despair.

Since the Celtic Tiger the nation has gone from Collingwood to West Coast in football parlance and the people have become very despondent and keen to either emigrate or grin and bare it. Sport undoubtedly helps their survival to grin and bare although the Wayne Rooney v Man U over the last week would not have helped. Every day there was a saga in all media about Rooney’s persona and greed.  Fancy receiving $ 350,000 per week.  The locals I have spoken to accept it. “It’s business not sport” they say

I always did think that the Irish loved their sport and now I am convinced.  The locals devour it, the papers explode with it and the media live by it.  Ireland is sport and sport is Ireland.  This can be demonstrated by the fact that 2,836 turned up to the practice match against the University of Cork last Wednesday night.  Don’t know how they got that number but it was grand. The locals revelled in every minute of the one sided affair and went home satisfied that at least the Cork bottlers scored one over during the demolition.

I felt sorry for families and friends back home when I heard that you did not receive the pre match entertainment and ceremony of the Test match.  It was awe inspiring and I am not saying that lightly.  The beauty in it was its simplicity.  It is so easy to carry out a ceremony on a rectangular area than an oval. Each player walked hand in hand with a youngster from the local area and the players I spoke to where touched by something that they do not participate in back home.  I just wish our boys would sing the National Anthem with more gusto and show scant respect for  the local anthem with their moving around and fiddling with the balls.

Living with the team and listening to and speaking with Michael Malthouse and others it is easy to see that we are here to win and it aint no junket.  The team train every day and there are copious meetings. MM is keen to finish the year on a winning streak.  “If I only had the team for a month it would be brilliant” he confided to me one day.

Without resorting to any rough house tactics they were able to withstand a fast Irish finish to game one. The second test this Saturday night at the home of Gaelic football, Croke Park is sure to attract a sell out crowd given that the home side are only 7 points down and it will be down to aggregate points if they happen win the game this week.  Given that our team had only one training one and that in the rain at Arden Street it was a splendid performance and I believe we can only get better this week.

What has been disappointing have been the comments in the local press about the future of the sport and the sanitised game they saw last week. They howled protest four years ago and now they are saying the game is too sanitised for it too continue to develop. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

The team have proven to be wonderful ambassadors for the AFL and Australia and the selectors need to be congratulated on their foresight in picking a team that is in sinc with the game and the opposition.

Sport has been a god send to the people of Ireland since the eighteen eighties when the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) was formed  and this tour has helped bring a smile to those Irish eyes that are doing it hard

About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.


  1. Bob,

    Very nice to be able to put some local context around the game. Thanks for the insights.

    That is all

Leave a Comment