Roving corner backs, more to come & who starts in the championship? Talking points as Limerick claim League title

Limerick claimed a third league title in five years solidifying their place as the team to beat this summer if anyone needed reminding.

While the contest itself was largely forgettable considering Limerick’s dominance, the history books will point to another national title for the Shannonsiders who now hold the League, Munster and All-Ireland trophies.

The 2-20 to 0-15 win over Kilkenny came at their ease as the repeat of the All-Ireland final never ignited with Limerick far too powerful.

With the spring campaign in the books, there is little rest for either side as the provincial championships kick off next week. Prior to that, we look at the talking points to emerge from the League decider.

Four is just a number to Barry Nash

Former Limerick goalkeeper Joe Quaid put it best as the teams went into the tunnel after an intriguing first half. Barry Nash’s goal in the 18th minute put a cushion between the sides that Kilkenny could never close. Quaid’s thoughts at the half were simple.

Simply put, Barry Nash is completely altering what is expected of elite corner backs in the game of hurling. His ability was never questioned but the shift to the backs in 2019 was pondered while a year later he was in the last line of defence. However, Nash has gone on to become one of, if not the best corner backs in the game (his teammate Sean Finn would have something to say about that).

His tally of 1-1 at the weekend only tells half the story with Nash so often the instigator of Limerick attacks. The goal in particular is an indication of his intelligence on the field, immediately sensing danger despite finding himself inside his own 45′. A 100-metre run later and the South Liberties man had the composure to finish past Eoin Murphy. Still he doesn’t neglect his defensive work with Kilkenny never getting a sniff on goal.

After finishing in the top three for Hurler of the Year for 2022, Nash seems to have his eyes set on the prize once again.

26 February 2023; Barry Nash of Limerick during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match between Galway and Limerick at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

More in the tank?

An eleven point victory over last year’s All-Ireland finalists would signal that Limerick are operating at their best already this April. But for anyone that watched the win over Kilkenny, there is a sense that the Shannonsiders have a lot more in the tank. You could argue they are yet to put in a 70-minute performance, despite winning six out of their seven games with their sole loss by a solitary point after leading by eight at the break.

Late dips came against Clare and Galway in successive weeks that allowed those to put a gloss on the scoreline while Kiely’s men only operated at their best for a quarter in the semi-final victory over Tipperary. Last Sunday, Barry Nash’s 18th minute goal gave Limerick the breathing room that they wouldn’t ever relinquish. But at the same time, they never really kicked on as they completely eased off the throttle following Gillane’s green flag.

9 April 2023; Limerick captain Cian Lynch lifts the cup after the Allianz Hurling League Final match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Páirc Ui Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Despite the score at the conclusion of the contest, John Kiely’s comments indicate further room for improvement.

“I don’t know do we ever get it completely under control but listen we worked hard on it. The wides were disappointing, absolutely. Whilst we were happy to have created those scoring chances, we need to be taken more. I’d say our shooting efficiency was the lowest it’s been.”

And when you consider Limerick had twenty wides, fifteen alone in the second half, the scope for improvement is definitely there. Against Cork in the 2021 All-Ireland final, arguably the best performance of all time, Limerick were lacklustre in front of goal late on in spite of racking up 3-32.

Six wins on the trot and a league title to boot without hitting top gear, it’s gearing up to be another special year for Limerick.

Who starts in the championship?

The riches at John Kiely’s disposal are mind-boggling and often emphasised when you take note of who is not on the field as opposed to actually playing. In the semi-final against Tipperary, Kiely was without seven All-Stars. Kyle Hayes, Dan Morrissey, Gearoid Hegarty, Seamus Flanagan and Richie English were resigned to the bench with Darragh O’Donovan and Graeme Mulcahy missing out through injury. Against Kilkenny at the weekend, Hayes and Mulcahy missed out on injury while Declan Hannon was also absent with the flu. Tom Morrissey was amongst the subs this time around swapping with Hegarty while William O’Donoghue was suspended.

Still, you could argue that everyone that started against Kilkenny is pretty much undroppable considering the performance. In their first league final, Cathal O’Neill and Colin Coughlan performed well with the latter particularly impressive in the place of Hayes. However, the thought of leaving out either of Hayes or Morrissey, not to mind both is unthinkable. Tom’s brother Dan filled in for Hannon with the Ahane native’s versatility making him a live option for #3, #6 or #7. The competition for each is fierce and Mike Casey will be desperate to keep the jersey he won back after a torrid couple of years with injury. That’s all without mentioning Richie English who is a guaranteed starter for every other county in the country.

Looking at Waterford, Nickie Quaid is nailed on to be in goals. Sean Finn and Barry Nash will occupy the corners while Diarmaid Byrnes and Declan Hannon will be five and six all going well. O’Donoghue and O’Donovan will continue in midfield while the triumvirate of Hegarty, Lynch and Morrissey appears to still be the first choice wing forward line. Flanagan and Gillane will start up top while Peter Casey will feel back to his best after injury. Hayes has to start however but where is the question?

A happy headache for Kiely and co to have and there are few better at making the tough choices. The countdown to Munster is well and truly on.


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