Limerick legend Enright happy to pass baton to new heroes
By Michael Devlin
Like all of the Treaty County fans watching their team stumble down the home stretch against Galway two Sundays ago, Limerick hurling legend Leonard Enright’s heart was in his mouth.
The Shannonsiders were seemingly out of sight and coasting towards a comfortable win when Shane Dowling’s 68th minute goal gave them an eight-point lead against the reigning champions.
In the ten minutes of injury-time though, a Joe Canning-inspired Galway mounted a comeback that would’ve topped all comebacks, and brought the gap down to one, only for gallant Limerick to hold strong the barricades and bring their long 45-year wait for the Liam MacCarthy Cup to an end.
“It was very good for a long period but coming near the end in the last couple of minutes was the worst I’ve ever come across,” said Enright at Croke Park yesterday, where he was being inducted into Hall of Fame for 2018 at a special ceremony at the GAA Museum.
“It was just dreadful because there’s nothing you can do about it. If you were playing then there’s something, but I have to say, it was brilliant for everyone! It’s done so much for Limerick, they’re the best side I’ve ever seen.
“It really would have upset us. We needed an All-Ireland badly. We were back in one with this great bunch of lads and it would have been disastrous to let it go.”
Enright enjoyed a lengthy inter county career throughout the 70s and 80s when the Patrickswell man established himself as one of the finest full backs of his generation.
Renowned as an imposing defender, he combined strength and determination with a subtle touch and a shrewd awareness. Part of the Limerick panel in the 1973 All-Ireland final, Enright won Munster titles in 1980 and 1981 and League titles in 1984 and 1985.
At a time of fierce competition for this position, he was the All-Star full-back in 1980, 1981 and 1983, and he was later synonymous with the development of Gaelic Games in Mary Immaculate College.
From Enright’s generation that included Richie Bennis and Eamon Cregan and the likes, the youthful heroes of 2018 have now accepted the baton, and Enright believes they can run much further with it.
“As Richie Bennis said, forget about ‘73. Let it go and these are your lads now. Best of luck to them.
“I do think they can build but I won't say anything about them if they don’t. You have a panel there which definitely has 26 you can pick out of and there’s more to come on. You’ve a good manager there with a good backroom. So let them off, they’re young.
“I actually was surprised at how they could take it on being that young. Because it’s big stuff now, it’s not easy anymore. Forget about our time, it was easy in our time. Two nights training a week, that was it.”
One thing is for sure, the passionate hurling fans of Limerick don’t want to endure is another 45 years of near misses and heartache.
“Oh Jesus, I hope not! You don’t want that again. These lads, give them their break and then let them off again. Let them get over their club commitments, see how the county final plays out. And then go back into it again. They’ve a lot of hard work.”