‘Scary, very scary’: Aaron Gillane on 65-metre shoot-out
Allianz league quarter-final victory over Clare was longest game of forward’s career
Limerick’s Aaron Gillane has scored 6-50 in the Allianz League so far this year with more to come. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
There have been varying descriptions of the fairness or otherwise of the 65-metre shoot-out which decided the Allianz Hurling League quarter-final between Limerick and Clare. For Aaron Gillane what ultimately unfolded on Monday evening was “scary, very scary”, and he should know.
After the sides had finished level after two periods – or four halves – of extra-time, Gillane was one of the five Limerick players to take up the responsibility: twice actually, as he nailed his first attempt, and his second, before Niall Deasy missed his second shot for Clare, allowing Colin Ryan to strike over the winner for Limerick.
“It’s probably better as well for the players who don’t take the free,” says Gillane, who also scored 2-11 during the 100-plus minutes of actual hurling. “It must be entertaining for them. But us taking them out there, it is scary, very scary.
“But it’s something different and I don’t really mind it. You feel like the best man in the world if you’ve scored it, but then if you have to come off after missing it then it’s a different story.”
Limerick manager John Kiely also described 65-metre shoot-out as “crazy”, adding that “it’s drama, but not the drama that you want. I prefer the game, we all do. We all want to see the game finished in a normal way.”
Clare joint-manager Donal Moloney had other words to describe it – telling Clare FM he felt the shoot-out was “ridiculous” and “absolutely disgraceful”, adding that he “sincerely hoped it didn’t come down to anything like that in the championship”.
Revamped championship structures
Actually it might, given all future qualifier matches will be decided by the same means if the sides are still level after the two periods of the extra-time.
This ‘penalty’ shoot-out was introduced at last September’s GAA Special Congress along with the revamped championship structures – the Munster and Leinster hurling championship now played on a round-robin basis. Designed to eliminate the need for replays at certain stages of the season, given the condensed fixtures calendar, what it probably wasn’t designed for was the finishing up of a game just before 7.0pm on a Bank Holiday Monday, with most of the players and management back at work or college the following morning.
Gillane doesn’t have any great complaints about that. “It’s worth it. I’d play the rest of the night if we ended up with a win. We waited around long enough over the weekend, so it didn’t really matter. It was good just to get it played.”
The game, by way of brief reminder, involved 100-plus minutes of actual hurling, featuring 58 scores, taking almost three hours to complete. The sides were level 3-16 to 0-25 after normal time; 4-18 to 0-30 after the first period of extra time, and 4-21 to 0-33 after second period time. It was the first time a national fixture has been decided like this, although two pre-season competitions (Wexford beating Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup, and Meath beating Longford in the O’Byrne Cup) also went to the shoot-out, only without the second period of extra-time, due to fading light.
Gillane certainly hasn’t played a longer game of hurling in his life: “Definitely not, no. And sometimes you would be struggling to last the 70 minutes, never mind over 100 minutes. So hopefully we won’t have to do that again. But then it was worth it in the end.”
Upped his game
His 2-11 on Monday, added to the 4-39 Gillane scored in the five rounds of Division 1B, brings his league tally to 6-50, with the prospect of more to come. The Patrickswell man has clearly upped his game this season, and even with 10 of the Na Piarsaigh contingent yet to return, has become central to Limerick’s progress this season under Kiely.
“Well, most of those were frees,” he says of Monday’s tally. “And there’s no one marking me for them. But happy with the performance, and most enjoyed over the win.”
His second goal was pure skill, a sort of back-handed flick, after Séamus Flanagan found him in the right place at the right time: “I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was seeing the goalie coming for me, and just tried to get rid of it as fast as I could, and thankfully it went in.”
Monday also extended to nine the number of games Limerick have gone unbeaten in this year, including three games in the Munster League and the Division 1B promotion decider against Galway.
“Things are going well, yeah, and we’re just hoping they’ll keep going the way they are. But not surprising, no, because we went down to Galway last weekend to win, and get promoted. We didn’t just go down there to play them.”
It marked Limerick’s first league win over their close neighbours since 2011, and keeps them on course for a first league title since 1997: they now get an unexpected but deserved weekend off before their semi-final on Sunday, April 1st, awaiting the winners of Dublin and Tipperary, as their quarter-final was postponed due to the snow and re-fixed for Croke Park this Sunday.