Limerick Seize the Day!

So we have new hurling champions with Limerick very much seizing their opportunity and getting it done under immense pressure.
When I saw that there was going to be eight minutes of injury time I couldn’t help thinking of the 1994 All-Ireland when Limerick were in a similar winning position, leading by five points with five minutes to play but ended up losing by six points. I can only imagine how Limerick players and supporters must have felt when Conor Whelan and Joe Canning fired late goals, here we go again?
Joe Canning did have that one last free from just outside his own 45m line to send the game to a replay but his long-range effort fell short and was cleared.
Cue the type of scenes we all love. Forty five years since their last title, all the way back to 1973 when Limerick beat Kilkenny for their last victory. The outpouring of emotion on the pitch, in the stands and back in the Gaelic Grounds where Limerick GAA erected a large screen for their supporters was magnificent.

John Kiely guided Limerick to a magnificent win at Croke park last Sunday

John Kiely guided Limerick to a magnificent win at Croke park last Sunday

This was Limerick’s day and good luck to them, they more than deserved it.Limerick were the better team all afternoon and only some erratic shooting allowed the late drama to unfold.
Without possession John Kiely’s men hunted down the maroon jerseys and in possession they worked the ball to a man in a better position.
No, John Kiely trusted his players and trusted his defence. Mike Casey did superbly at full-back with his corner men Sean Finn and Richie English both also having good games. In turn Richie McCarthy after replacing the injured Mike Casey also held his own.Good defenders don’t’ need sweepers, they just need to be trusted.Captain Declan Hannon had a mighty game at centre-back, particularly in the opening half when he also landed two long-range points. The power and pace of Tom Morrissey, Kyle Hayes and Gearoid Hegarty really mattered in the energy stakes. So too did Seamus Flanagan who roamed throughout lighting fires all over the field that Galway just couldn’t extinguish. Graeme Mulcahy playing inside along with Aaron Gillane once again delivered for his team with 1-2 from play. The much vaunted Limerick bench arrived on que with Shane Dowling fulfilling his promise hitting a great goal following a pass from fellow substitute and club-mate Peter Casey.
I remember watching Shane Dowling as a young minor scoring three goals at Walsh Park for Limerick and asking “who’s that kid”.

I’m sure being restricted to playing the ‘super sub’ role wasn’t Shane Dowling’s idea of his destiny but today there is nobody doubting his crucial contribution to Limerick’s All-Ireland win.
Shane Dowling is the definition of a team player.John Kiely is the quiet man at the helm. The way he integrated the Na Piarsaigh players gradually back into action after their All-Ireland defeat last March and his ability to attain harmony among a talented but young panel is a tribute to his man management.
John Kiely also managed the hype and build-up superbly. Kiely made their quest this year all about Limerick and not about himself. Selfless in the cause rather than any attempt for self-promotion or ‘John Kiely’ brand building. Limerick arrived at Croke Park on Sunday confident they were going to win. In the words of Shane Dowling “we’re not going up there to march behind the band”.
I listened to many of the game previews which went along the lines that this Limerick team will win an All-Ireland at some stage but not yet.
For a young team like Limerick your best chance is often the first one. It’s a long road to Croke Park on All-Ireland Sunday and with the new championship format it’s now even longer. You just don’t know when you’ll be back there again.

Next year Limerick will be back in Munster playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with only three counties from five again progressing to the knock-out stages. It’s possible that Limerick may not even get past the round robin stage. Who’d have thought that Waterford (finalists 2017) and Tipperary (semi-finalists 2017) would be out of the championship before the end of June this year?When a success starved county like Limerick (or Waterford) get to a final you need to get over the line and win.Next year may never come.

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