A pair of goals weren’t enough to halt the Rebels with the teams level at the interval after an absorbing first half that produced 22 scores.
The All-Ireland champions absorbed everything thrown their way on Sunday and left the TUS Gaelic Grounds as the team still standing in a Munster championship campaign that keeps on giving.
It ended 3-25 to 1-30 on the Ennis Road with results elsewhere ensuring a Munster final for Kiely’s men and one they will be vying for with a five in a row and a chance at redemption against the Banner.
A pair of first half goals weren’t enough to halt the Rebels with the teams level at the interval after an absorbing half an hour that produced 22 scores.
The third goal came from a Diarmaid Byrnes penalty and Limerick did go seven in front. Cork got it back to the minimum but the hosts held resolute for the victory and progression to the All-Ireland series.
With the dust (somewhat) settled on an incredible encounter, we recap some of talking points from the TUS Gaelic Grounds.
Kiely’s Men Stem Another Tide
It has been a Munster championship for the ages but Sunday’s encounter between Limerick and Cork may just top the lot as two of the best went toe to toe in the TUS Gaelic Grounds heat. Make no bones about it, Cork were real All-Ireland contenders prior to throw in but now find themselves in the abyss as they will have to wait 11 months for their next championship outing. A puck of the ball in the right direction for the Rebels would have seen them into the Munster final at Limerick’s expense. Instead, the quest for five in a row in Munster remains on the cards for the Treaty.
For the fourth game running, a Munster side brought their absolute best to the Limerick juggernaut, and once again pushed them all the way. But unlike Clare, Cork couldn’t reel in Kiely’s men who showed their steel when backs were to the wall against a ferocious Rebel side. Pat Ryan’s men landed 1-30 but it still wasn’t enough with Limerick’s green flags so crucial. Cork, with their season on the line, brought everything to the occasion but just came up short with leaders from the Shannonsider popping up all over the field.
For the Rebels, had they performed to that level against Clare and Cork, there would be a repeat in the Munster final against the Shannonsiders. But against Limerick there is no room for ifs, buts and maybes as the All-Ireland champions answered the latest set of questions in an emphatic manner.
Leaders Step Up
There’s no doubting that the best set of players in the country reside on the Shannonside. The riches at John Kiely’s disposal are to the envy of every other county and they have lived up the billing, annexing championship after championship under the Galbally native. This year, the first set of chinks seem to appear in the armoury with Waterford just being pipped before Clare laid the first telling punch since 2019. It could have gone either way in Thurles three weeks later with a number of players just off the pace.
But when needed most yesterday, the big men stood up and were counted. The reigning Hurler of the Year Diarmaid Byrnes, showed exactly why he holds that accolade with an astonishing second half period, plundering 1-4, including an audacious penalty. On the opposite wing,
Kyle Hayes was imperious and added a point from distance before settling into centre back. Mike Casey was flawless at corner back while up top, Gearoid Hegarty moved up the gears with a telling score down the stretch, illustrating why he was the best in the land not so long ago. Cian Lynch came on and made a big contribution, winning crucial dirty ball. Aaron Gillane and Seamus Flanagan didn’t get much but made the most of whatever came their way with 1-6 from play. Darragh O’Donovan fired over 0-3, each as important as the last.
Each of those had been relatively quiet coming into the game but displays like Sunday are what made them All-Stars and perennial All-Ireland winners. Three more performances like that of Sunday and there will be more honours coming their way.
Work To Be Done
Still, there are areas of improvement for Limerick to work on moving forward and into the Munster final and All-Ireland series. Efficiency was improved but the amount of wides were still alarming, especially early on when they hit four on the trot to start the contest. In total, the Shannonsiders hit fifteen wides during the contest, nearly double that of Cork (8). In a one-point game, that could have been very costly for Kiely’s men who have failed to find the efficiency that saved them in day one against Waterford.
But they can look to twelve different players getting on the scoresheet as a positive in that regard, as is the total they scored as they reached the levels they’ve become so accustomed to in recent years. However, there were a number of goalscoring chances that went a begging that will need rectifying next time out.
Also, another startling stat to emerge from the contest was the free count, namely scrabble frees for both sides. To be fair to Patrick Horgan, he was unerring over placed balls but between him and Declan Dalton (2), they accounted for 0-13 of Cork’s tally. Meanwhile, Limerick shot just 1-4 from frees split between Diarmaid Byrnes and Aaron Gillane. The Treaty will know they have to be better in the tackle with the free count in the Munster final sure to play it’s part.
And speaking of the Munster final, it will be a repeat of the 2022 decider when Limerick and Clare played out an instant epic in Thurles. On that occasion, the Treaty needed extra-time to see off a spirited Banner side and claim a fourth successive provincial title. Clare would go on to lose in the All-Ireland semi-final to Kilkenny who Limerick then saw off in the final.
However, the Banner did end Limerick’s 17-match unbeaten run earlier this year and the Shannonsiders will be keen to avenge that defeat. For Clare, they will look to inflict another blow on Kiely’s men as they themselves seek a first Munster victory since 1998.
The prize for the winner is also a more straightforward path to the Liam MacCarthy. It promises to be another epic.
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