The John Horgan column: Cork hurling fans envy the brilliance of Limerick

All-Irelands champions again, the future appears green
The John Horgan column: Cork hurling fans envy the brilliance of Limerick

Cian Lynch of Limerick in action against Iarlaith Daly, left, and Calum Lyons of Waterford. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

CATCH us if you can. That may well be Limerick’s call to the rest of the hurling world after their magnificent All-Ireland victory last Sunday.

As All-Ireland final performances go, this will rank up there among the very best, as good if not better than some of Kilkenny’s victories in their era of dominance.

Statistics never lie, 30 points registered on the scoreboard, 24 of them from open play.

Contrast that to Waterford’s return of just eight from play.

Christmas trees are now lighting brightly throughout the hurling homes of this country, Limerick lit up this season’s hurling championship like no other.

To win every game they played, the Munster League, the NHL, the Munster Championship and the All-Ireland campaign is unprecedented as far as one knows.

But should we be that surprised? They were champions two years ago, lost last season’s semi-final by a point and, despite having towatch the team that they had trounced in the Munster final, Tipperary lift the MacCarthy Cup, they were pencilled in as the team for this season; in most pundits eyes the favourites to lift the trophy before a ball was struck in anger.

In any sporting arena, you will never get a flawless performance, but Limerick’s defeat of a Waterford side that gave us so much over the past few months was not a million miles off it.

They were simply awesome, defensively and offensively, in the latter department, they are multi-talented.

They are so assured in everything that they do, their ball-winning ability, their distribution and execution of it is the best we have seen from any side for quite some time.

A feature of their play is the ability to strike long, diagonal deliveries with such accuracy, so often resulting in big scores.

They were without key defenders Mike Casey and Ritchie English for the entire season, but it hardly mattered with Dan Morrissey and Barry Nash seamlessly fitting in.

They moved Kyle Hayes into defence, put Cian Lynch up front and again that worked the oracle.

One of their greatest strengths is their bench, something that has been in evidence since they pegged Cork back in 2018 when the now-retired Shane Dowling came on to deliver a tally of 1-4.

The likes of Pat Ryan, David Reidy, Peter Casey, Paddy O’Loughlin, and Adrian Breen would challenge strongly for first team places in most other counties.

There is the old adage that you keep the best wine ‘till last, and Limerick applied that in exhilarating fashion in Croke Park on Sunday.

While one could not find any fault with any of the previous performances in reaching the final, this was their best by a long shot. And they did it the hard way, harder than some previous champions.

They had three games in Munster to deal with, starting with the always potentially dangerous derby with near neighbours Clare.

Then along came the reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary followed by Waterford who had taken out Cork with so much efficiency.

Galway were one of the sides perceived to have been their biggest rivals, but again they were just too good.

And it was Waterford again in the final, a buoyant Déise after their epic victory in the semi-final.

So, there were many different challenges to be negotiated on the journey, but one by one they were dealt with.

They possessed the two best and most important lines in hurling, the half-back line and half-forwards.

Diarmuid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, and Kyle Hayes were majestic at five, six and seven while Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey were phenomenal in the half-forward line, evidenced by their haul of a dozen points from play on Sunday.

Cian Lynch did not get as many scores, but his assistance in setting up so many made a huge difference.

SUPER KEEPERS:

Waterford keeper Stephen O’Keeffe’s wondrous save from Hayes, followed up by another from Lynch had to be as good as the storied save that Art Foley made from Christy Ring in 1956. They were mind-boggling stops.

However, at the other end, Nickie Quaid was equally effective with his calmness and control, and one counted up to six saves that he made in the 70 minutes. He is going to be the All-Star goalkeeper.

Limerick goalkeeper Nickie Quaid clears his lines ahead of Dessie Hutchinson of Waterford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Limerick goalkeeper Nickie Quaid clears his lines ahead of Dessie Hutchinson of Waterford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The loss of the influential Tadhg de Búrca early on was a massive blow to Waterford, psychologically as much as anything else; his loss to the half-back line was immense, but it would not have changed anything.

In his column on Monday’s Irish Examiner, Anthony Daly spoke about ‘Total Hurling’ and how this Limerick team have moved in that direction Some of the scores that were executed by Hegarty, Tom Morrisson, Seamus Flanagan, Kyle Hayes, and Aaron Gillane were from another world altogether.

John Kiely is a long way off from what Brian Cody has achieved as a manager, but he’s moving in the right direction although Cody’s record will stand the test of time.

Unless Mayo and James Horan pull off the impossible next Saturday against Dublin, Kiely is, unquestionably, the manager of the year.

In his corner, he has Paul Kinnerk and Caroline Currid, two of the most accomplished in their fields.

Kiely has surrounded himself with the best and that’s what every great manager does.

Waterford were not outclassed in this final, they fought bitterly to the end, but there was no stopping this Limerick juggernaut in this unprecedented of years.

As the late and great Jimmy Magee once described Diego Maradona, ‘different class’, Limerick are in that category now.

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