HIGHLIGHTS | Limerick’s path to a fifth successive Munster Hurling title

It was a hard earned title for the Shannonsiders, who were staring down the barrel of elimination in the final pair of rounds.

Limerick defeated Clare by a solitary point in the TUS Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, as they claimed their fifth Munster championship title in a row. It was a hard earned title for the Shannonsiders, who were staring down the barrel of elimination at various stages during the provincial championship.

But John Kiely’s side have answered their critics with impressive displays of hunger and desire on their way to yet another Mick Mackey Cup, moving to 24 Munster titles.

A journey that started in Thurles would end in Limerick’s back yard, Kiely’s men winning the cup in front of thousands of their own fans in the most dramatic circumstances. A 1-23 to 1-22 win would be enough for the Treaty to avenge the April loss to Clare, and send the Limerick faithful into raptures on the Ennis Road.

It is a first ever five in a row in the province for the Shannonsiders and what a journey it was as we look back on each of the games that secured history for Limerick.

11 June 2023; Limerick players celebrate after the Munster GAA Hurling Championship Final match between Clare and Limerick at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Limerick 1-18 : 0-19 Waterford (Munster SHC First Round)

April 23 in FBD Semple Stadium

Limerick got their 2023 Munster Championship campaign underway against Waterford in Semple Stadium, and while they managed to get the win, it was not a comfortable afternoon for Kiely’s men, and would be a sign of what was to come in the remaining championship games.

Seamus Flanagan bagged a goal in the 21st minute to give his side an eight point lead, and it appeared as though the Shannonsiders would sail to victory. However, Waterford flashed over three points just after the break, and found themselves just one adrift.

After starting poorly, they eventually found their rhythm, and took the game to Limerick, who were a man down following the dismissal of Gearoid Hegarty in the second half.

However, they responded as champions do to take a commanding lead once more following dismissal. As fatigue set in, Waterford drew close but couldn’t find parity as Limerick held on to maintain their four year unbeaten streak.

Limerick 2-20 : 1-24 Clare (Munster SHC Second Round)

April 29 in TUS Gaelic Grounds

Kiely and his side would head into their first home game of the championship knowing that they were somewhat fortunate to have come away with the win against Waterford, and would need to improve to beat a dogged Clare team.

The performance definitely improved for the Shannonsiders, but they would end up on the losing side for the first time since 2019, ending a run of 17 games undefeated.

Inaccuracy in front of goal was detrimental for the Treaty men with the visitors fully deserving of their victory in the Gaelic Grounds.

Limerick held a one point advantage going in at half-time, but the Banner would draw level shortly after the restart, and Peter Duggan scored the crucial Clare goal on the 40 minute mark, proving much too powerful for the Limerick defence.

Aron Shanagher secured the game for Brian Lohan’s side, firing over two late points to send the crowd wild.

Seamus Flanagan did his best to pull the game out of the fire, finding his second goal of the game in injury time to cut the gap to just one point, but ultimately it would be too late, as Clare secured a famous win over their rivals.

Limerick 0-25 : 0-25 Tipperary (Munster SHC Third Round)

May 21 in FBD Semple Stadium

The Treaty county returned to Thurles in round three, as they hoped to get back to winning ways against Tipperary, who had beaten Clare and lost to Cork in their first two games.

Clare’s win over Cork provided breathing room for the Shannonsiders who knew they couldn’t be eliminated in the match but would have seen their monopoly over the Munster championship ended if they fell to defeat.

The Premier were, in Kiely’s own words, very “efficient,” and went into the interval with a much deserved 0-15 to 0-12 lead. In contrast, Limerick’s conversion rate was way down, mirroring the issues encountered the previous game with Clare.

Kiely’s men would take command in the second half, a half largely influenced by the introduction of Graeme Mulcahy and Peter Casey from the bench. The pair combined for three points as Limerick took control of the contest.

However, the spoils would be shared after John McGrath rose a white flag from a free at the death. 0-25 apiece it ended to leave Tipperary in the driving seat for the Munster final berth, and Limerick facing a do or die contest with Cork.

Limerick 3-25 : 1-30 Cork (Munster SHC Round Four)

May 28 in TUS Gaelic Grounds

Limerick and Cork faced off on the Ennis Road in the final round of the provincial championship with identical records, and knew that the loser would be eliminated from the championship.

The two sides would play out a thriller under the scorching sun, and with a one point win Kiely’s men would actually qualify for the Munster final, following a shock result in Thurles.

It was a game that could have gone either way, with both teams holding leads at different stages of the game, but ultimately it was the Shannonsiders’ experience that got them over the line. They managed to find goals when it mattered most, with Seamus Flanagan and Cathal O’Neill both finding the net from play in the first half.

However, unperturbed by the green flags, Cork managed to go in level at the break, courtesy of Patrick Horgan, and the game was well and truly in the balance.

The reigning Hurler of the Year Diarmaid Byrnes stepped up big in the second half for Limerick with the Patrickswell man hitting 1-4, including a well struck penalty

Horgan gave the Rebel’s hope when he goaled in the 62nd minute, but Byrnes crucially stretched the Limerick lead to two with a 65′. Cork reduced the margin to a single point but Kiely’s men held out to secure a Munster final rematch with Clare.

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Limerick 1-23 : 1-22 Clare (Munster SHC Final)

June 11 in TUS Gaelic Grounds

Limerick welcomed Clare to the TUS Gaelic Grounds for a repeat of the 2022 Munster final, seeking revenge for the loss in round two and hoping to extend their reign as provincial kingpins.

The stakes couldn’t have been higher, the Treaty were looking for an unprecedented five in a row, while the Banner were hoping to land their first Mick Mackey cup in 25 years.

It was Aaron Gillane who stole the show, the Patrickswell man landing 1-11, his goal crucially swinging the tie with Limerick holding out for a one-point win for the second game running on the Ennis Road.

Clare had a strong first half, and held a three point lead going in at the break. But after Gillane goaled after the break to give Limerick the lead, the tie was in their control. The Shannonsiders stretched their lead as far as six in a period Kiely described as “the moving quarter,” and threatened to run away with the game.

But Lohan’s men didn’t give up, inspired by their substitutes they managed to bring the tie back to just one point, and while they may feel aggrieved to miss out on a free to level, Liam Gordon brought another epic to an end with Limerick reigning supreme.

History made for Kiely’s incredible group of players who join Cork in winning a Munster five in a row while also booking their place in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

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