De­serv­ing cham­pi­ons make his­tory with plenty to build on in the fu­ture

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - – Nicky English

There’s no dis­put­ing that Lim­er­ick are de­serv­ing cham­pi­ons af­ter this most re­mark­able of cham­pi­onships. From the word go, they had the edge in terms of en­ergy com­pared to Gal­way, which might have been ex­pected. But in all the key met­rics – pos­ses­sion, go­ing to the ball and cre­at­ing chances – they were the su­pe­rior team.

The day got to them as well, a lit­tle bit, and their early wides from all kinds of an­gles from the half-back line and else­where showed how they weren’t choos­ing the right ball with the same pre­ci­sion they had showed in the semi-fi­nal.

They al­most re­verted to league form which had seen them knock­ing up big wides to­tals, and that un­der­mined them in the first half, and even though they led by four at the break, it could have been more. Then the goals came and seemed to con­firm that this was their day – un­til the ghosts of 1994 some­how ap­peared and gave them a chill­ing fi­nal few mo­ments.

It was un­be­liev­able that a Gal­way team, which had looked so down and out for most of the af­ter­noon and well beaten in most de­part­ments, ac­tu­ally had a free to draw the match. Lim­er­ick went into free fall, hit some crazy wides and Graeme Mulc­ahy gifted Niall Burke a score to bring it back to within a point.

To be fair to Mulc­ahy, he had the com­po­sure to get the ball and the point that ef­fec­tively won them the match by restor­ing a two-point lead. It showed once again the re­silience that Lim­er­ick have demon­strated all year. They were un­der mas­sive threat but found what it took to win just as they had been do­ing through­out the league and at crit­i­cal times in this year’s cham­pi­onship.

They cer­tainly wouldn’t have de­served to lose – or even draw – and although the PA ended up play­ing Dreams by The Cran­ber­ries, you’d imag­ine the Lim­er­ick crowd had been hav­ing night­mares of 1994, as Gal­way found that late surge.

They were bet­ter all around and, when you con­sider that two of their full-back line had to go off (on Sun­day’s form, Mike Casey was a par­tic­u­lar loss, and re­mem­ber how dis­rup­tive changes there proved to be in En­nis against Clare last June), it was a very cred­itable dis­play.

Big in­flu­ence

De­clan Han­non had the bet­ter of Joe Can­ning for most of the day un­til the end, whereas Cian Lynch – whose hard work cov­er­ing and get­ting for­ward was again a big in­flu­ence – and Dar­ragh O’Dono­van held their own, although David Burke got his cus­tom­ary three points.

The for­wards mixed the sub­lime with the ridicu­lous, but that was to be ex­pected. They are young play­ers with huge po­ten­tial and that was also ev­i­dent in per­for­mances such as that of Kyle Hayes in the early sec­ond half, which was out­stand­ing.

Gil­lane and Flana­gan showed de­sire in their hunt­ing for the ball and, although you could some­times ques­tion their de­ci­sion-mak­ing, their first touch and com­mit­ment to work, and their hon­est ap­pli­ca­tion to turn­ing up for the next ball, is a tes­ta­ment to their work and John Kiely’s suc­cess in mould­ing a side that in some ways isn’t typ­i­cal of Lim­er­ick.

They’re classy hurlers, par­tic­u­larly in the for­wards, and that hasn’t al­ways been char­ac­ter­is­tic of Lim­er­ick. They also have plenty of back-up with Peter Casey and Shane Dowl­ing, who got an­other great goal for them off the bench and just at a time when Gal­way had gen­er­ated a lit­tle bit of mo­men­tum. It’s again un­usual but the de­fence isn’t as well re­sourced.

If this team can deal as well with the suc­cess of win­ning the All-Ire­land as they did with the pur­suit of it, they will be around for a long time, but right now it’s some notch for a young team to have on their belt.

It was dis­ap­point­ing for Gal­way.

‘‘ If this team can deal as well with the suc­cess of win­ning the All-Ire­land as they did with the pur­suit of it, they will be around for a long time

They looked lethar­gic for long pe­ri­ods and when they man­aged to shake them­selves out of it, they used the ball badly and hit a lot of wides them­selves, which un­der­mined them as well.

So while Lim­er­ick looked ner­vous be­cause of their in­ex­pe­ri­ence on the big oc­ca­sion, Gal­way de­vel­oped their anx­i­ety through not be­ing at their best and their in­abil­ity to turn things around.

At one stage Cathal Man­nion was be­ing taken off and Conor Cooney thought he was be­ing re­placed, which didn’t say a lot for his state of mind or con­fi­dence in his own dis­play.

Man­ful per­for­mance

Pádraic Man­nion gave a man­ful per­for­mance and David Burke got his cou­ple of points, but didn’t im­pact much be­yond that. Conor Whe­lan wasn’t on enough ball while Jonathan Glynn was in and out from 12 to 14 but well mar­shalled. You couldn’t say they got a good sup­ply of ball but they never looked likely to cre­ate enough.

Their scor­ing has dried up over the past cou­ple of matches and, but for a brief pe­riod against Clare, there hasn’t been any im­prove­ment since they looked so im­pres­sive against Kilkenny in Thurles. Those re­plays prob­a­bly sapped en­ergy in re­cent weeks and, even though they fin­ished bet­ter in the fi­nal, they were lethar­gic for most of the af­ter­noon.

For me the league win over Gal­way in Salthill re­mains a piv­otal re­sult for Lim­er­ick. They hit 25 wides that day and 20 on Sun­day, so they have plenty to work on, but for now they can en­joy a fan­tas­tic and well-de­served All-Ire­land ti­tle.

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