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How Nigel Owens Got A Message From Inside The Limerick Dressing Room

How Nigel Owens Got A Message From Inside The Limerick Dressing Room
By Maurice Brosnan Updated

As the entire county of Limerick erupted in collective joy at Sunday's epic All-Ireland final victory, it quickly dawned on renowned rugby union referee Nigel Owens that this meant more than mere entertainment.

Hurlings biggest day is always one to savour. Even Galway and Limerick's mixed quality encounter produced a gripping conclusion and engrossed in it all was Owens, watching on from his Welsh home. Speaking to Balls.ie, Owens explained he tuned in on the advice of his Irish colleagues.

I have been traveling with some of the Irish referees; George Clancy, John Lacey, before that Alain Rolland. They all, particularly George Clancy, always mention what a great game hurling is. He is a big hurling fan and a big limerick hurling fan. We had a Pro14 conference last week and they mentioned that the All-Ireland final was on Sunday and it was worth watching because it was great sport. I refereed Bristol vs Scarlets on Saturday and Ian Madigan was playing for Bristol so I had a chat with him afterward and he filled me in on the rules.

Hurling's appeal lies in its natural chaos. The frenzy captivating for spectators and so it proved for the unaccustomed viewer. With the aid of a passionate Twitter audience, Owens was able to keep track of the action and enjoy the spectacle.

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It was really, really engrossing. I was sort of surprised at how fast it was, and obviously they are amateur players as well. It was just how fast and physical the sport was, how exciting it was. From what I’ve been told it probably wasn’t the best game of hurling compared to some of the other games but the last 10 minutes or so was so exciting, I really enjoyed it.

It was interesting really, I was thinking to myself when someone is watching rugby for the first time this is probably what they are experiencing. Something exciting, but not knowing some of the laws and trying to get a grip on what is going on. Here I was watching a totally different sport, trying to get a grip on some of the laws. Although, sometimes, I thought there weren’t any rules in the game!

Ultimately Limerick were victorious on a scoreline of 3-16 to 2-18 and this brought an additional surprise for Owens. In 2014, he received a random request to wish the Limerick hurlers luck on Twitter and did so. Over the past few years, he began to interact with the user and come Sunday, he received a message from the Limerick dressing room, the Liam McCarthy Cup front and centre.

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The man behind the account was Kyle McCarthy, Limerick's matchday runner and hurley carrier: "I got a picture of him holding the cup, he just said it was great to see you enjoy the hurling and you’ve no idea what it means to the people of Limerick."

Owens was not the only new fan to come to the sport on Sunday. He watched the game with visiting family and called his father beforehand to encourage him to tune in. Next on the wishlist is a live game and the Welshman is hopeful that will become a reality next year.

The rugby official is well familiar with the sporting passion that exists within Limerick having overseen numerous Munster matches and it was this that stood out above all else on Sunday.

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 I have to say the physicality, the speed of the game, the skill of the players, the excitement, but what really hit me was the passion of the crowd! Very similar to a rugby crowd, very passionate for it and when I was listening to the interviews afterward, one of the Limerick players was giving an interview nearly in tears with what it meant to him. I thought 'this is what rugby is like as well.' When you have local teams, local areas, local clubs in villages and towns. This is what it means for those who play rugby at the amateur level of it. It was unbelievable, the emotion really came through to me.

I think being a Welshman you can appreciate the passion it means to the players playing the game. It seems a working class game in Ireland and that is rugby in Wales, the passion and pride we all have in our local community games. That shone through from hurling.

SEE ALSO: Limerick's Dressing Room Wall Material Says It All About This Group's Mentality

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