“It’s really special” | Nickie Quaid reflects on All-Ireland triumph and bond within the Limerick squad

The best goalkeeper in the country in recent years, Quaid has won five All-Ireland titles in his time with Limerick, which he admits he never could have expected.

Following last Sunday’s All-Ireland win, Limerick’s netminder Nickie Quaid has probably secured his spot as a 2023 All-Star, and the Effin man couldn’t be more than deserving of the honour.

Standing across from the other nominee for the best in the land, Quaid won the battle as his side destroyed Eoin Murphy’s Kilkenny to inflict a second successive final defeat on the Cats.

Consistently one of the best in the land over the last decade, Quaid has won five All-Ireland titles in his time with Limerick, which he admits he never could have expected.

Coming into the panel in 2010 as an outfielder in a side blighted by the strike that saw Limerick lose each of their competitive games, the contrast to the current crop couldn’t be more different.

Reflecting on the incredible achievement of winning a fifth title, Quaid says they are “memories for a lifetime.”

“When you’re growing up as a child all you want to do is play for Limerick, win one All-Ireland, to be standing here having won five, we don’t really appreciate it, maybe looking back we’ll appreciate it. These are memories we’ll have for a lifetime.”

23 July 2023; Limerick players Cian Lynch, left, and Declan Hannon lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup after his side’s victory in the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship final match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Limerick had to try get over the line without their captain, Declan Hannon, and Quaid said the Adare native rallied his troops at half-time.

The Shannonsiders were also navigating injuries to players such as Sean Finn and Richie English, with Quaid describing the casualties as “huge motivating factors.”

“Dec wouldn’t be a huge speaker, but when he does speak he commands so much respect, when these kind of lads speak fellas listen and perk up. Dec and Sean, Richie and these lads were a huge motivating factor for us during the week. To try and get over the line, and get Dec up them steps was a big part of it for us.”

2023 looked as though it may be the year Limerick fall from the summit, following some mixed displays in the Munster championship.

They saw their championship unbeaten streak come to an end against Clare, but manged to avenge the loss in the Munster final with victory over the Banner.

Ultimately, there was no stopping limerick when it mattered as they ended the year with League, Munster and All-Ireland honours for the second time in four years.

Perhaps the extra struggle to get over the line this year made it all the sweeter for the players.

“It is a sweet one when you sit back and look, missing players like Declan Hannon, Sean Finn, Richie English, Jimmy Quilty as well, they’re huge lads for our group, to be able to get over the line with those calibre players out is very satisfying.

“Things might not have been going brilliant at the start of the year for us, but there was three cups up for grabs and we were able to pick up all three.”

8 July 2023; Limerick goalkeeper Nickie Quaid during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final match between Limerick and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It is a special achievement for a special side, who many are now lauding as the greatest of all time. While the players don’t allow themselves to get bogged down on the overall achievements in the moment, Quaid spoke of the time the team have together in the dressing room after the game, calling it “special.”

In the inner sanctum of the dressing room, with just the teammates and backroom team surrounding each other, there is no better feeling for Quaid and co.

“That time in the dressing room is special, you can look around the room and see smiles on faces. To look around and say we achieved what we achieved is a brilliant feeling. As a group, that time in the dressing room after is special really.”

Quaid is one of the senior players in this Limerick side, but he has shown no drop in quality in the last few years, still widely regarded as the best in the country.

His displays throughout the year have been nothing short of top class, as have those of Kilkenny keeper Eoin Murphy, who is likely to be his closest competitor for an All-Star.

Following the weekend’s result, Quaid may have edged ahead of the Kilkenny man as the undisputed number one goalkeeper in Ireland.

One thing is for sure, those in Limerick wouldn’t swap him for anyone else.

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