Tom Morrissey waiting until Christmas to savour highlights of a special year

Classy wing forward’s superb late point against Kilkenny so crucial to Limerick’s success

Tom Morriessey: “U-21 is still a very high standard but nothing – nothing – I’ve ever played before compares to senior inter-county championship hurling.” All-Ireland succes. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

The All Stars banquet last Friday was the GAA’s highest-profile review of the hurling year with the live awards, Hurlers of the Year announcement and other highlights all adjudicated upon.

It was of course Limerick's year: a first All-Ireland in 45 years, six All Stars, both the Hurler and Young Hurler of the Year statuettes as well as the moment of 2018, the seconds as Joe Canning's free to equalise for Galway fell short and the final whistle went on the All-Ireland final.

Peter Duggan's semi-miraculous point for Clare in the drawn All-Ireland semi-final with Galway also featured but Limerick had a credible candidate for that as well.

In the All-Ireland quarter-final, Limerick and Kilkenny were locked together at 0-25 to 1-22, as the match moved into three minutes of extra time. Wing forward Tom Morrissey picked up the ball on his own 65-metre line and set off on a long run with James Maher in pursuit before striking it over from the right-hand side-line. There were 70 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock.

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Before the end Aaron Gillane added a free but Morrissey's score seemed to capture the euphoria of a first win against Kilkenny in decades.

“To be honest I haven’t had much time for reflection in the last few weeks,” is the 22-year old Morrissey’s reaction.

“ I’d say it’ll be Christmas before I get to sit down and have a real recap of the year. It was a nice point to get and a crucial one but in the circumstances the main thing was to get over the line, not having beaten Kilkenny since we last won the championship in 1973.

“It showed how substantial an achievement – and how substantial a moment – that was for Limerick.

“When it happened it was all instinctive. I picked up the ball and if there had been a wing back in front of me I’d just have played the ball but there was space there and I just ran it. It was late in the game and maybe wasn’t the time for running the ball but I was alert to the opportunity that presented itself and I just went and took it.

The speed

“Maybe I was a small bit fortunate but I just went for it.”

It wasn’t enough to land him the Man of the Match citation, which went to his brother, Dan, at left wing back but he’s been used to following in the brother’s footsteps.

Even on Friday, when he was considered unlucky to have missed out on an All Star, Dan was picking up his first.

“It’s someone you’ve know all your life and grown up trying to emulate because he’s always been three years ahead of me. Watching him play minor and U-21 and following in his footsteps and now to be soldiering alongside him is pretty cool.”

The under-21 background has been a badge of identity for Limerick with many of the team having graduated from the All-Ireland winning sides of 2015 and 2017. He says that pace is the main difference between the grade and senior.

“Definitely the speed of the game. U-21 is still a very high standard but nothing – nothing – I’ve ever played before compares to senior inter-county championship hurling: the pace and physicality.”

As the curtain comes down on the year he’s looking forward to a final year in college, doing a masters in UL and playing Fitzgibbon Cup.

Until then the only activity on the horizon is this year's 11-a-side Fenway Hurling Classic in Boston where Limerick will play Wexford in the semi-final. Clare meet Cork in the other match.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times