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Another 30 points in a final as rampant Limerick have only history to play against now

For the fourth All-Ireland final in a row, they’ve put up 30 points - only the greatest Kilkenny team had ever so much as done it once before

Limerick have only history to play against now. Everyone else is panned out on the canvas, wondering whether it’s even worth trying to beat the count. Somebody will, because time and tides demand it. But for now, they stand alone in the centre of the ring, bug-eyed and growling. Unbreakable.

They made it four All-Irelands in a row here on the back of a typically Limerick second-half of great vengeance and furious anger. Like so many teams before them, Kilkenny wired into John Kiely’s side for 50 minutes but were ultimately reduced to bystanders at their own crime scene. A goal lead at half-time turned into a 0-30 to 2-15 beating by the end.

For Kilkenny, it must have felt like sticking out your hand to check if it’s raining and finding a tsunami rushing towards you, turning trucks and cars into bath toys. Derek Lyng’s side were in the game and then they were watching the game, handcuffed to the best/worst seat in the house. Paddy Deegan’s goal put them 2-10 to 0-11 up on 42 minutes. Limerick outscored them 0-19 to 0-5 the rest of the way.

“I thought we were well in the game midway through the second half,” Lyng said afterwards. “They got that run and they got magnificent scores. And when you tie down one player, another player turns up. All the time they have quality all over the pitch, they have quality coming on – no more than ourselves. We had chances and we needed to be really clinical. But we probably weren’t efficient enough with some of the chances that we got. They got some fantastic scores in the second half.


“You have to have the intensity. You have to have the work rate around the pitch but particularly against them, you have to be there on the breaking ball and winning that. They are just so strong around that middle third and I thought for a long time we made it a really good battle out there.

“Like I said, [they get] that momentum then. They get that flow and they get a bit of room and space. It’s not as if we were cut open at all – there were scores from out the field, outrageous scores, fantastic scores. And sometimes there is nothing you can do about it.”

At half-time, we said Kilkenny will feel like they should be further ahead. Little did we know we meant a dozen points further ahead – Limerick outscored them by 0-21 to 1-6 after the break. Across the afternoon, they scored 30 points from 40 shots. Shooting with 75 per cent accuracy in an All-Ireland final will usually get it done.

Lyng mentioned afterwards that a nine-point margin was harsh on Kilkenny and on a certain level you could see where he was coming from. When you’re right there at level pegging with 20 minutes left on the clock, you’re entitled to feel that you’ve made more of the game than the scoreline suggests. Particularly when you’ve led for all but three of those minutes.

Eoin Cody’s early goal gave Kilkenny the foundation they were looking for. Tom Phelan, the only player on either side playing in his first All-Ireland final, was attacking the afternoon with everything he had. Diarmaid Byrnes and Will O’Donoghue were both on yellow cards inside the opening quarter-hour.

By the 30-minute mark, Kilkenny were six points ahead and had made the start they were looking for. Problem was, so had Limerick, after a fashion. Kiely told us afterwards that while being six points down was obviously not the plan, facing down whatever Kilkenny had to throw at them in the toughest conditions possible absolutely was.

“We deliberately played into the Hill today to take on that breeze in the first half,” the Limerick manager said. “We wanted to face that onslaught. We wanted to absorb it. We wanted to feel it. We wanted to fight it and take it on.

“It was difficult, it was very difficult, but the prize was to be able to take on those shots in the second half. There was some incredible scores taken. Even with the breeze, even with the distance, they were still fantastic scores that the lads picked off.

“We have done it a good few times. We have good reference points where we have had to face similar situations and we are just comfortable in that space. The lads are comfortable in that space. There is nothing more they are facing there than what they are facing in training, or at least there shouldn’t be. So they have to cope with it and it took them a long time to learn how to cope with it. But they got there eventually.”

Look where it brought them. Limerick have now put up 30 points – as in, at least 30 white flags – in four finals in a row. Before they came along, only one team in history had ever so much as done it once.

When Kilkenny rattled over 3-30 against Waterford in 2008, we cooed that it was the most complete display hurling had ever seen. It was such an outlier that The Sunday Game gave Brian Cody man of the match. Now Limerick have made it routine.

What’s more, they’ve made it seem like a base level of competence despite shipping blows that ought to have brought the line down a notch or two by now. They’ve seen out this All-Ireland without Seán Finn or Declan Hannon, with Seamus Flanagan for once anonymous in a final, with Aaron Gillane as good as shut down. They’ve been tested like never before from minute one of game one back at the end of April and still they’ve made the final their biggest winning margin of the season.

They are awesome champions. History is going to have a job on its hands finding the end to them.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times