TV View: Limerick give us a half fit to grace the annals of hurling

The pre-game talk surrounded the champions’ power - there was more to it than that

Limerick’s Cian Lynch holds aloft the Liam MacCarthy Cup after his side’s win over Cork. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Limerick’s Cian Lynch holds aloft the Liam MacCarthy Cup after his side’s win over Cork. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

The word ‘power’ cropped up regularly in the pre-match chat ahead of the All-Ireland final in highlighting a discrepancy between the teams. It was identified by media pundits and analysts as to why the defending champions Limerick would retain the title for the first time in their history.

Limerick’s physical superiority allied to their indisputable hurling prowess as individuals and as a team would prove irresistible in allowing them to overwhelm Cork. It was the unvarnished truth but with an hour and a half to kill prior to throw-in not one that the RTÉ panel was going to peddle from the get-go.

Instead anchor, Joanne Cantwell and panellists Dónal Óg Cusack, Anthony Daly and Henry Shefflin searched diligently and at times spuriously for reasons as to why Cork might be in with a chance of reclaiming the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the first time in 16 years. No matter what route they took the conversation returned to the same starting point; Limerick would have to be below their best for Cork to defy the odds.

The coverage was even handed and fair in exploring the two finalists, key players, run to the final and important match-ups; boxes ticked. Cusack, as a Corkman, made a monumental effort to be impartial and was, admirably, although when he ventured that teams had found it very difficult to win back-to-back All Irelands in the past, it was easy to picture him crossing his fingers and mouthing, ‘here’s hoping.’

Cork Donnarumma

Asked to pick his moment of the championship to date he elected to choose a save from Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins whom he said “emerged as Donnarumma,” a reference to the Italy and PSG net-minder and one for which in the old days he would have been ex-communicated from the GAA faith. It may still have to be referred to a CCCCCCCCCCCCC meeting.

Cusack understands the value of a good turn of phrase to elevate what occasionally can be a mundane enough point, evidenced in his ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ reference to Limerick. He also won the award for the best analogy later in the afternoon when he said: “Looking at Cian Lynch it’s like trying to play hurling against Harry Potter. ” Magic.

There’s a nice balance to the panel, each bringing a slightly different perspective in tone and content, especially the excitable Daly, whose enthusiasm oozes from every pore. Passion has a place.

Cusack wasn’t the only one to delve into films by way of illustration, Shefflin dropping in The Queen’s Gambit as he explained movement in the full forward line above a graphic that read, ‘space and pace win the race.’ No one mentioned Titanic which might have been the most apposite movie reference given the link with Cobh and in how Cork’s afternoon panned out.

Another Corkonian former camogie star and now television analyst and presenter Anna Geary said just before throw-in: “it’s Limerick’s to lose.” It’s worth noting the date in not being able to find a Cork person to express that innate sense of superiority.

A wonderful atmosphere provided by the 40,000 spectators permitted onsite, the presence of the Artane Band and that of president Michael D Higgins offered perfect accompaniments, whetting the appetite for the primary spectacle; all that was required was a match for the ages.

Grace the annals

Instead Limerick provided a first half performance to grace the annals of the sport. As individuals and more importantly as a team they were magnificent. Cork were atomised. RTÉ’s man on the sideline Damian Lawlor, excellent in every facet of his work, explained how Cork selectors Ger Cunningham and Diarmuid O’Sullivan came down from the stands to join Kieran Kingston; three wise men but no star or stars to follow.

It’s possible to marvel at and admire Limerick’s hurling while being slightly disappointed that the match as a contest was over at half-time. That’s not to detract from the winners and no one sought to in that respect. Credit was due and given.

Daly and Shefflin were uniform in their choice of word “unbelievable” to describe Limerick’s opening 35-minutes; Michael Duignan and Marty Morrissey were forced to whip out the thesaurus at half-time in search of more synonyms and superlatives.

When Kingston replaced three of his starters in one fell swoop on 46 minutes, he went all-in knowing that he had the second best hand and there was no chance of his opponent folding.

Limerick won as they pleased despite accumulating almost as many wides as points in that second half. It mattered not a jot, as they were serenaded to the final whistle; and presumably beyond in the days, weeks and months ahead.

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