Hurling and camogie

Tickets snapped up, trains sold out... Cork and Limerick descend on Dublin for the All-Ireland Hurling Championship final

Cork's Patrick Horgan scored 15 points as the Rebels saw off Kilkenny in a thrilling All-Ireland semi-final. Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Andy Watters

THE 40,000 match tickets are long gone and the trains, including the specials, are sold out in both directions as men, women and children from the ’Bars and Ballinhassig, from St Senan’s and South Liberties converge on the Mecca for tomorrow’s Liam MacCarthy decider between Cork and Limerick.

The Rebels, without an All-Ireland title in the caman code since 2005 and the days of ‘The Rock’, Sean Og and Donal Og, go in as underdogs against a mean green and white machine that mixes brawn and brains with the slick skills of Aaron Gillane and Kyle Hayes and the rest.

The Treatymen are the defending champions and worthy favourites.

Manager John Kiely shook a county that hadn’t won the Liam MacCarthy since 1973 out of the doldrums when he took over in 2016 and has forced them up through the traditional powerhouses and made them the team to beat.

At the post-match press conference after the breathless semi-final in 2018 in which Limerick beat Cork in a 68-score classic that finished 3-32 to 2-31, Kiely addressed the media. He told one and all in no uncertain terms what he would do if anyone bothered one of his players between then and the final.

“I’m telling you now lads,” he said, “I’ll shut the whole thing down”

An affable guy, a few months later he recalled how some cheeky skitter from one of the Dublin papers had phoned a member of his squad the very next morning! Needless to say, the have-a-go hero reporter didn’t get very far but the phonecall didn’t upset the applecart and Limerick scraped past Galway by a point in the final.

After losing their crown the following season, Limerick reclaimed it last year and they have no intention of loosening their grip tomorrow in a clash between ancient enemies whose hurling rivalry goes back to the inception of the Munster Championship – Cork were the first winners, Limerick were in the fourth final.

Along with Tipperary, the Rebels have been the dominate force in the province and Limerick’s haul of 22 titles has been swelled by the three in-a-row they completed this year.

That success included a 2-22 to 1-17 victory over Cork who are pushing for a ‘Rebel Treble’ this year with their youngsters in the All-Ireland hurling final and their footballers meeting Tyrone in at the All-Ireland semi-final stage in Tullamore today.

Despite that Munster semi-final loss, hopes springs eternal along the banks of the Lee and Cork fans are travelling north in optimistic mood.

With Patrick Horgan shooting 15 points, Cork saw off Kilkenny after extra-time to reach this final and of course there is massive support for Kieran Kingston’s team. The ‘Cork hurlers Part 2’ thread on The People’s Republic of Cork website was up to 14,882,623 views by lunchtime yesterday.

On page 4531, a Rebel fan posted an honest assessment of tomorrow’s finale.

“Limerick have shown that they are the most complete hurling team we have seen in my lifetime, there are no weakness in any of their lines and their bench,” wrote the veteran of the 1972 final.

“Cork will have to fight for their lives in the first half to stay in the game, if we are there at that stage we have a fighting chance.”

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Hurling and camogie