READING BETWEEN THE LINES
So what of the matchups in this afternoon’s All-Ireland final? Jamesie O’Connor runs the rule over the key battles that await us
IN my first three years with Clare, I played a total of 10 championship matches, including an improbable AllIreland winning campaign. Limerick have played seven matches already this summer, Galway have been through eight. And yet the silverware they aspire to has yet to be claimed. That shows the energy these teams have expended just to get to today’s final.
One more hurdle remains to be jumped, however, one more massive effort required before the champions are crowned.
What a summer of hurling it’s been. The extent to which the new format has captured the public’s imagination has surpassed all our expectations. Dublin v Kilkenny, Wexford v Kilkenny, Cork v Tipp, Clare v Tipp, Cork v Limerick, Waterford v Tipp — all classic encounters, and that’s not the full extent of the highlights reel.
Cork’s comeback in the Munster final, Kilkenny’s belligerence and refusal to surrender in the Leinster final. Throw in the Kilkenny v Limerick quarter-final, a pair of epic semi-finals, plus the drama of the replay and we’ve had a disproportionately high number of high-quality matches. As Maximus shouted to the Colosseum hordes in Gladiator, “Are you not entertained?” The answer to that one is an emphatic yes.
While it could just as easily have been Clare and Cork in the final, on balance the two best teams are there. Galway remain the only side to go undefeated, but questions exist about what the two replays have taken out of them.
Limerick lack their opponents’ biggame experience, but come in with the exuberance of youth, massive comeback wins over two of the traditional powers and a genuine belief that this is their year.
Something has to give, but irrespective of who comes out on top, the 2018 winners will be the worthiest of worthy All-Ireland champions at 5pm this evening.