Hungry Limerick have something in reserve to take next step
The Munster final win was fantastic for hurling, for the team, for manager John Allen, and especially for Limerick’s loyal supporters
Limerick players celebrate in the dressing room after their victory over Cork. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
We’re starting to expect the unexpected these days, certainly when it comes to the hurling championship which is the best in years. It brings me back to the mid-’90s when there were a host of real contenders. Now we’re in a situation where any one of the six teams left in the championship can entertain hopes of winning the All-Ireland.
Yesterday’s Munster final win by Limerick was fantastic for hurling, for the team, for manager John Allen, and especially for their loyal supporters. The emotional scenes that greeted the final whistle showed just what it meant to every man, woman and child in Limerick.
Much will be made of the sending-off before half-time of Cork’s Pat Horgan and how it influenced the result. I felt his sending-off was harsh and incorrect. There was no intent. He was trying to control the ball and his hurley struck his head. In my book, it was not a sending-off offence. But I also don’t think it was the key factor in the result. Sure it was an uphill struggle for Cork after that but I felt Limerick were already shaping-up as likely winners.
In that first half, Cork – with the wind – had too many aimless wides. They were never really flowing. Apart from Seámus Harnedy, the rest of the forwards found it hard to get into the game. That Luke O’Farrell and Conor Lehane were both replaced showed just how off they were on the day and, really, Cork needed to take the goal chances that came their way.
The one that fell to Horgan was probably the best goal-scoring opportunity and Cork needed that if they were to kick on and to silence the Limerick crowd. It didn’t happen. They might say if they’d 15 men for the full match they might have done this or that but I clearly think they were second best.
Cork tried hard, even with 14 men, but the missed free from James Coughlan in the second-half was the clearest example of not taking their chances.
No, it wasn’t to be for Cork. This was a fantastic day for Limerick and ultimately they ran out comfortable winners. The impact of the bench in the modern game was duly emphasised by how well Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes and Niall Moran performed when brought on. All contributed handsomely.
I believe Limerick are serious contenders for the All-Ireland and, having bridged one provincial gap of 17 years, can now bridge the 40 years gap since their last All-Ireland championship success.
You have to give Limerick huge credit for this win, and particularly their second-half performance. Virtually everything they attempted came off. Declan Hannon’s sideline cut was an example of that. Wayne McNamara caught some wonderful high balls. Donal O’Grady took over around the midfield.