Limerick hurlers reach the Promised Land after 45 years of trying
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship final: Galway 2-18 Limerick 3-16
IF you don't get goosebumps on days like yesterday, you'll never get them. When Limerick substitute Tom Condon caught stitched leather and ran like hell’s blazes as far away from his own goal as possible, he decided to keep running as the final whistle sounded.
Their 45-year wait for Liam MacCarthy was over. Limerick had reached the Promised Land.
But, in typical Limerick fashion, they did their best to throw away what looked like an unassailable nine-point advantage after Tom Morrissey’s 54th minute goal seemed to completely flatten defending champions Galway.
Thanks largely to the genius of Joe Canning Galway somehow turned yesterday’s All-Ireland decider into a one-point game in the ninth minute of stoppage-time.
And with the last free of a compelling clash, distance was against Canning converting a free from deep inside his own half.
Once Condon caught the ball and sprinted away, Limerick had done it.
Canning deserved more for his incredible performance – but Galway didn’t. The champions didn’t come close to reaching their potential. Even a replay would have been a terrible injustice on John Kiely’s Limerick players.
Laughter rang out when Kiely tried to convince reporters afterwards that he was “calm, really calm” when Canning sized up his last-gasp chance.
“Joe’s done it for Galway on so many days,” the Limerick manager said.
“He’s a phenomenal hurler, a phenomenal leader, just an incredible hurler, one for the ages.”
He added: “Our hearts were jumping out of our chests the whole time. But at the same time you were trying to block out the noise and trying to think as clearly as you can, trying to see what’s happening in front of you. It’s not the easiest place to be, lads. I wouldn’t recommend the job!”
A first-half goal from Graeme Mulcahy really ignited Limerick’s All-Ireland challenge before Tom Morrissey and super sub Shane Dowling rippled Galway’s net in the second half.
But they forced their faithful supporters to watch the final 10 minutes through clasped hands as the scoreboard’s big clock seemed to tick in slow motion.
Every second felt like the longest minute.
Kiely, who was a substitute when Limerick lost the ’96 All-Ireland final to Wexford, felt more relief than anything else that his native county could now breathe out.
“It’s just an awful pity it took so long because there were some fantastic teams there in the ’80s – ’80, ’81 and then in ’94 and ’96 and 2007. They were great teams, great players.
“Going back over the last seven, eight, nine years, I never thought this is where it would end up.”
Kyle Hayes wasn’t born when Kiely experienced All-Ireland final heartache in ’96.
The 20-year-old’s four points from play – three coming in the early stages of the second half – had Galway reeling yesterday.
“I’m kind of shell-shocked at the moment,” Hayes told reporters.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. We know we’ve done something great but I literally can’t describe it.”
The Kildimo-Pallaskenry ace didn’t feel the same anxiety as his manager when Canning grabbed Galway’s second goal that reduced the arrears to two points in the 75th minute.
“I wouldn’t say we felt panic because you always trust the fella next to you,” said Hayes.
“My first thought when Joe got their second goal was ‘win the next puck-out’.
"That’s been built into us all year: as soon as we’re dealt a blow, react straight away.”
A few Limerick supporters escaped onto the pitch at the end.
Each escapee was roundly cheered.
And the Cranberries never sounded better.
The party's only beginning along the Shannon.
Limerick player ratings
Nicky Quaid: The 29-year-old has been soldiering with the Shannonsiders since 2010 and finally scaled the mountain. Calmness personified, his short puck-outs to Dan Morrissey were brilliant. Perhaps made an illegal save to deny Joseph Cooney, but an outstanding final. 8.5
Sean Finn: Can now add an All-Ireland winner’s medal to the two he won at U21 level. An outstanding corner-back who did a solid job on Galway danger man Conor Whelan. Must be in the running for an Allstar. 8.5
Michael Casey: Limerick stopped the supply into Jonathan Glynn at source which eased the stress on the Limerick full-back. But he’d already laid down a marker in the early exchanges beating Glynn to a couple of 50-50s. 8.5
Richie English: Limped out of this final in the closing stages but his contribution up to that point was immense. Kept his two best performances for the semi-final and final. Won his duel with Cathal Mannion. 8
Diarmuid Byrnes: After a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes in the opening half, the Patrickswell clubman’s deliveries into the Limerick forwards were excellent. 8
Declan Hannon: Coughed up possession to allow Padraig Mannion to point but the Limerick captain read danger superbly. His back-to-back scores towards the end of the first half gave Limerick huge belief. Intercepted some dangerous high balls. 8
Dan Morrisey: The Ahane wing-back never put a foot wrong all day. Collected umpteen short puck-outs from Quaid and was his usual self under the high ball. The architect of numerous Limerick scores especially Kyle Hayes’ brilliant 42nd minute. 8.5
Darragh O’Donovan: Converted a super 12th minute point but David Burke will always get away from his man to get his customary few points from play. Never stopped running. 6.5
Cian Lynch: Went one better than his famous uncle Ciaran Carey who lost two All-Ireland finals. Johnny Coen didn’t present him with any major troubles. Rode a few tackles to point early on and set up Seamus Flanagan for a goal chance. 8
Gearoid Hegarty: Made a couple of mistakes early on and Aidan Harte capitalised upon. Replaced by Shane Dowling. 6
STAR MAN: Kyle Hayes: The 20-year-old, who is equally adept at number six, was the coolest man on the field, hitting four points from play, three of which came early in the second that demoralised Galway. Just about pips Dan Morrissey to the man-of-the-match award. 8.5
Tom Morrissey: Took a while to find his rhythm and ended with 1-1, profiting from Byrnes’ lovely pass to point in the first half and then robbing Gearoid McInerney to find the net. 7.5
Aaron Gillane: Facing into arguably the best defender in this year’s Championship in Daithi Burke, the 21-year-old attacker had some good moments but was otherwise well marshalled. 6.5
Seamus Flanagan: A mixed bag from Limerick’s roving number 14. Hit a couple of wides but his direct running caused the Galway defence a lot of problems. Had a goal chance saved. 7
Graeme Mulcahy: Did really well to get Limerick’s crucial first goal and took a heavy hit from Padraic Mannion. Dangerous every time he gained possession and ended with 1-2. 7.5
Richie McCarthy: Stuck to Conor Cooney like glue. 6
Shane Dowling: A class act. Finished to the net in the 69th minute. 7.5
Peter Casey: Gave Limerick fresh legs in the closing stages. 6
William O’Donoghue: Came in for the tiring Darragh O’Donovan. 6
Tom Condon: The 30-year-old has been a brilliant servant. At 30, he’s got his All-Ireland medal. 6
Galway player ratings
James Skehill: Not his finest hour as some sloppy puck-outs were punished. Made a great save to deny Flanagan a goal, keeping the sliothar out with his leg. Forced from the field as a result. 6
Adrian Tuohey: Looked nervy from the off and was bamboozled by Mulcahy's movement at times. Also mugged by Casey in lead up to third Limerick goal. 5.5
Daithi Burke: Kept a tight enough lid on Gillane, although was regularly pulled out of position as Limerick looked to exploit the space out wide. Good battle with Casey when introduced. 7
John Hanbury: Couldn’t get to grips with Flanagan, who drifted in and out all afternoon and always seemed to have the pace to get away from the Galway man. Withdrawn after 57 minutes – possibly too late in the day. 5
Padraic Mannion: Delivered some decent ball into the full-forward line and one of the few to drive Galway forward, especially late on. 7
Gearoid McInerney: An injury doubt coming into the game, he had the look of a man who hadn’t trained a whole lot in recent weeks. Caught in possession for Limerick’s second goal. 5.5
Aidan Harte: Had a good battle with Hegarty, who curbed the Galway man’s attacking raids. 6.5
Johnny Coen: Came off second best to Cian Lynch. Made a vital interception to stop Lynch advancing on goal in the first half. 6
David Burke: Scored three points from play and tried to drive Galway on. 7
Joseph Cooney: Would have fancied himself against Dan Morrisey but drifted in and out of the game as Galway struggled to make a dent in the Limerick rearguard at times. 6
Joe Canning: Showed the fire and drive that makes him such a special player towards the end of the game. Dead eyed in front of the posts and really stood up to be counted. Yet was cancelled out for virtually the whole first half. Would have brought the house down had he scored a long late free to level, but it wasn’t to be. 7.5
Cathal Mannion: Talked of as a strong player of the year contender before the game, but virtually anonymous yesterday. Withdrawn in the 45th minute. 5
Conor Whelan: That he didn’t register until the first minute of added time tells you all you need to know. That said, his goal sparked a comeback that just fell short. 6
Conor Cooney: Got no change from the brilliant Richie English, though shooting was wayward too when he did engineer space. 5
Jonathan Glynn: Michael Casey always had at least another green body floating around to help out when the ball came near the Galway colossus. Worked hard to win ball and provided a few assists, but finished up scoreless. 6
Niall Burke: Came in for Cathal Mannion and looked lively. Scored a point that brought it back to the minimum in dying minutes. 6.5
Paul Kileen: The damage had largely been done by the time he replaced Hanbury 13 minutes out. 6
Jason Flynn: Why wasn’t he introduced earlier? Seemed strange he was held in reserve until the 58th minute when Conor Cooney was having an off day. 6
Sean Loftus: Battled hard and won a few breaks around the middle. 6.5
Fearghal Flannery: Wasn’t called upon after replacing Skehill between the sticks, but did nothing wrong. 6