LIMERICK GREAT EAMON Cregan ranks Mary Immaculate’s historic Fitzgibbon Cup triumph on Saturday on par with his 1973 All-Ireland senior title win with Limerick in terms of achievements in his hurling career.
Cregan stepped down as manager after Saturday’s titanic Fitzgibbon Cup final that saw his Mary Immaculate team claim victory to take the honours for a first time.
And after being involved in hurling in the college since 1993, he had no hesitation in comparing the feat with his exploits on the last Limerick team to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
“The way it happened, it is just fantastic. It would be up there with the 1973 All-Ireland, without a shadow of a doubt, because of the way they hung in.
“We went ahead, we lost the lead, we went behind, we came back, we went ahead, we lost the lead, but we kept on coming back.
“It just shows the tremendous heart that the team have.”
Did Cregan ever believe he would witness a day when Mary Immaculate – who only entered the Fitzgibbon Cup for the first time in 2013 – would be champions of the elite third-level hurling competition?
Never, never. You have a ratio of ten females to one male. Then about three years ago, more men came in.
“Now the ratio is eight females to one male. And of that ratio, we got about forty hurlers. It is about the panel of 40 in there and around 25 of them will be there next year.
“We were able to get men into Mary I and that is the difference in the ability of the players to perform. It is amazing how they gelled.
“It is because it is a small college and everybody knows everybody else. Whereas if you go to UL, UCC or NUIG, you are just one of thousands. Whereas in Mary I, you are just one of many.
“This goes back to one person, Noreen Lynch. She kept the GAA going in Mary I. Only for her, today wouldn’t have happened.
“I came in and helped her in 1993. And she kept it going. This is the culmination of a fantastic year for Mary I.”
Cregan paid tribute to his players for their performances.
“(They had) tremendous heart and a belief in themselves that they could win it. This is a team that I had as Freshers and they came up along the ranks.
“I am getting emotional now at the moment… we didn’t train very hard. They came from Tipperary, Clare, Cork, Limerick and Galway.
“They gelled as a unit for Mary I. That is the soul of the Mary I.”
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