A look back at Limerick’s incredible hurling year in 2021.
“It’s an unreal feeling. Three All-Irelands in four years is a bit surreal when you’re coming from Limerick. Growing up it would have been Cork, Tipp and Kilkenny. The success over the last four years has been amazing.”
Summing up the achievements of this Limerick side in the wake of their All-Ireland victory over Cork in August, Dan Morrissey said it best as the Shannonsiders reclaimed their national title.
Having waited 45-years for a Liam MacCarthy triumph in 2018, Limerick have since added two more titles to truly establish themselves as one of the best sides of all-time.
Their record breaking season of 2020, when they became the first side in sixty years to win each of their competitive game, was somehow topped this year as they sauntered clear of the chasing pack.
For the first time in history, Limerick retained the All-Ireland title and in doing so, broke the record for points scored in a final, putting 3-32 on Cork in the decider.
And after matching the record for most All-Stars in a single season with nine last winter, the Shannonsiders smashed the record earlier this month when they claimed twelve spots on the PwC team.
Sean Finn matched Pat Hartigan and Joe McKenna in winning four on the trot while Cian Lynch claimed a third gong. Kyle Hayes, Diarmuid Byrnes, Tom Morrissey and Gearoid Hegarty were named for the second successive year while Declan Hannon also claimed his second award. Barry Nash, William O’Donoghue, Darragh O’Donovan, Seamus Flanagan and Peter Casey were rewarded for the first time.
Missing out were Nickie Quaid, Dan Morrissey and Aaron Gillane who were all very unlucky to miss out after backing up their All-Star seasons of 2020.
Nonetheless, each of Limerick’s starting XV for the All-Ireland final now has an All-Star among their collection.
In addition to that, Cian Lynch was named Hurler of the Year for the second time, joining Henry Shefflin as the only other player to win multiple awards.
Despite all the success, earlier in the year, the side struggled to find their groove with a return to action in May coinciding with the winning streak coming to an end as they were held by Tipp in the Gaelic Grounds.
A week later, Galway in inflicted a first defeat in almost two years while Waterford followed suit a week later.
But a fortnight break proved the perfect tonic as Limerick returned to the Gaelic Grounds, putting Cork to the sword in a dominant 0-33 to 2-19 win, their first of the year and a sign of things to come.
Westmeath were routinely dispatched in their final league clash as attention quickly shifted to the Rebels in Munster.
A Shane Kingston goal gave Cork an early advantage which could have been five approaching the half had Quaid not expertly denied Patrick Horgan from the penalty spot.
From here the contest turned and goals from Darragh O’Donovan and Kyle Hayes had Limerick six clear which was 2-22 to 1-17 at the final whistle.
In the Munster final, chasing a first three in a row in 85 years, Limerick were stunned as Tipperary thundered into the contest and were full value for a 2-16 to 0-12 lead at the break.
But Limerick’s blitzkrieg arrived immediately after the restart and led by Kyle Hayes’ goal of the century contender, they were two points in front heading into the final waterbreak. The margin of victory was five as they made more history.
If somehow you missed Hayes’ goal, it would certainly make for brilliant Christmas viewing.
Kiely’s men were far from finished and were able to keep Waterford at arms length in the All-Ireland semi-final, claiming a 1-25 to 0-17 win to reach a third All-Ireland final in four years.
Against Cork in the final, Cian Lynch set the stall out with a point in the opening minute. A couple later and the talisman set Gearoid Hegarty free for their first goal.
And on the half time whistle, Hegarty was once again set free by Lynch as Limerick took a 3-18 to 1-11 lead into the break.
The rest is history as Limerick cruised to the title to firmly establish themselves as the greatest team of the current generation.
And with the 2022 season right around the corner, few would back against John Kiely’s men. But for now, enjoy what we witnessed this year, a team for the ages.
Watch Treaty Talk End of Year Hurling Special
Listen to the Treaty Talk End of Year Hurling Special