“THIS IS THE victory we craved,” bellowed Liam Aherne as Limerick shocked Tipperary to advance to this year’s Munster Final.
The Live95 radio commentator embraced his county bias as the Treaty County defeated their provincial rivals to set up a date with Cork. The craving was not satisfied apparently as Limerick beat Cork to secure an All-Ireland semi-final spot.
“I lost the run of myself,” Aherne confessed to TheScore.ie when asked to revisit his exuberant salutations after the triumph over Tipp.
“Not many people were expecting that Tipperary win. I try to remain as neutral as possible but, on occasion, I do get a bit carried away with myself, especially when it comes to Limerick hurling.”
In Limerick, he adds, expectations of the county’s All-Ireland hopes have grown week on week ever since the victory over Cork. A hurling fan ever since his father brought him along to matches at the Gaelic Grounds in the 1990s, and reporting on the sport for the past eight years, Aherne is confident that John Allen’s men can beat Clare to set up a re-match of the Munster Final at Croke Park.
He said, “I’m hopeful enough of Limerick winning the All-Ireland. It is not something I thought I would have been saying after the [Allianz] league. In the first game we played Carlow and we just about beat them. I thought ‘this is going to be a nice, short summer’.
“The one good thing is that we played our best match of that campaign up at Croker. Dublin bossed the first 10 minutes against us but we pushed them close and showed promising signs.”
The form of James Ryan and the emergence of Wayne McNamara as “the rock” at the centre of Limerick’s defence, the reporter feels, have seen the side emerge as genuine contenders for the Liam MacCarthy. Saying gleeful farewells to Kilkenny, Galway and Tipperary [again] along the way has fuelled the hype machine. Aherne commented:
We haven’t had an opportunity to build this side up, and get excited, since 2007 when we last reached the final. We got to the semi finals in 2009 but we all know what happened there [Tipperary beat them 6-19 to 2-7]. They have regrouped and built on the success of a extremely good U21 side. They have as good a chance as the final three sides that remain. They deserve the hype.”
With the Limerick Minors in action semi-final against Galway as today’s Croke Park curtain-raiser, Aherne anticipates a 14-hour day but says it beats sitting at home and watching rival counties scrap it out for silverware.
A thriving sports scene
You cannot talk to a sports reporter from Limerick without mention of Munster Rugby. Ahern believes that the professional nature of rugby has distanced the team and players from many supporters.
He said, “Often with the rugby coaches, like Rob Penney and Tony McGahan before him, there is a line that they stick to and they don’t give any more away. They are media savvy and are well coached in it.
“There are better relationships with GAA players and coaches. The rugby players are living in the community but you won’t pass them in the street and have a full-blown conversation, as you may with a hurler. If you say ‘how’s the injury clearing up?’, he might tell you whereas the rugby player is thinking ‘Do I have to go through the PR officer to give him an answer?’ That’s the professional game.”
It is a game that Aherne was delighted to follow closely this year, when Munster reached the Heineken Cup semi-finals, and in 2008 when they won the competition in Cardiff. Successful teams, he points out, go through cycles of success and Munster are gradually emerging as European Cup contenders again.
This list of interviewees includes Ronan O’Gara, Andy Lee, Gary Kirby, Paul O’Connell, John Allen and more but Aherne’s favourite sports personality to chat to is ‘a football philosopher’.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan celebrates a Limerick win in 2008. (©INPHO/James Crombie)
He said, “It might sound strange but Micky Ned O’Sullivan is a great man to talk to. You could sit down and chat to him about the game for hours and hours.”
When it comes to the highlight of his commentary career, hurling [Munster Hurling Final 2013] edges out football [covering Ireland in Euro 2012 for talkSPORT] and rugby [Munster winning the 2008 Heineken Cup].
“To be up in the gantry and see the crowds spill on to the pitch, and the outpouring of sheer joy, is something I will never forget. As the age-old saying goes, that win had grown men in tears.”