Young Stars Shine, Refereeing Decisions and Imperious Final Record | Talking Points as Limerick make it five on the spin in Munster

With the dust settled on the TUS Gaelic Grounds clash, we take a look at at some of the key talking points to emerge from the contest.

A game for the ages but the result was in Limerick’s favour with the first ever Munster five in a row completed by the county’s flagship side.

For the second year in succession, Clare gave it their all but ran up just short against the Limerick juggernaut, furthering their candidacy to be the ones to dethrone the Treaty.

But they will have to hope for a trilogy if that is to happen with Limerick safely into the last four of the All-Ireland as Clare prepare for a quarter-final.

With the dust settled on the TUS Gaelic Grounds clash, we take a look at at some of the key talking points to emerge from the contest.

Young Stars Step Up

One of the main themes to emerge from Limerick’s win over Clare this time 12 months ago was the fact that the Shannonsiders defeated the Banner without the reigning Hurler of the Year Cian Lynch. Having picked up the first of two serious injuries in the second round against Waterford, Limerick had to make do without the Patrickswell native in the thriller in Thurles. It was the same case on Sunday with Lynch kept in reserve after struggling with injury for the second year running. In addition to that, the Treaty were without four-time All-Star Sean Finn who suffered a season ending injury against the Banner last time out. Declan Hannon was also forced off in the second half. Between them, the trio have amassed 12 All-Ireland’s, 16 Munster’s, ten All-Stars and two Hurler of the Year awards.

Without that experience, a number of players stood up in their absence with two, Adam English and Colin Coughlan, making their Munster final debuts whilst Cathal O’Neill was exceptional in his second decider vs the Banner. With scores at a premium, O’Neill and English combined for three from play in the second half. It was a championship debut for English who was first thrust into the game as a blood sub in midfield before entering the field in the full forward line shortly after. His score was a thing of beauty, as were O’Neill’s pair, akin to his last-minute winner for the U20s against the same opposition last year.

Speaking of their impact, Kiely praised the young stars who all played U20s in 2022, with English representing the side earlier this year also.

“Particularly pleased with the impact we got off the bench, lads really came into a really frenetic, difficult game, probably the most difficult game I’ve ever had to see lads try get into, I think they coped with it very well, Cathal (O’Neill) and Adam (English) in particular, given the circumstances around the death of his uncle yesterday and having to come and do what he did, I though that was in incredible achievement for a young player on a day like today, just shows the calibre of the individual that he is.”

28 April 2023; Adam English of Limerick during the Munster GAA Hurling U20 Championship Round 5 match between Limerick and Cork at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Stephen Marken/Sportsfile

Outside of that, Kyle Hayes, who is still just 24, stepped into the breach at centre-back when Hannon left the field. Mike Casey continued in the absence of Finn while David Reidy justified the decision to start him at centre-forward with three big second half scores as he joined an illustrious list of six-time provincial winners from the county. Aaron Gillane’s tour de force was not surprising to those familiar with his body of work with each playing their part in the victory.

Finn is gone for the season but the likes of Lynch are poised to be ready for the All-Ireland semi-final as Limerick’s squad depth shines through yet again.

Refereeing decisions even themselves out

Taken in isolation, Clare fans are right to feel there was a missed call in the final moments of the game with Peter Casey and Tony Kelly coming together in the fight for the slitter with time up. Liam Gordon let play on with Limerick’s championship fate sealed just seconds later. The moment was analysed in depth immediately after the game and has been the main topic in the days since Limerick completed the five in a row.

But in a game like hurling, one moment like that does not define the entire contest. Under immense pressure, there was a number of calls made by Gordon that were questionable but importantly, they occurred on either side of the coin. Clare fans will point to the incident with Kelly and another in the late scuffle. On the flip side, both yellow cards to Mike Casey and Gearoid Hegarty left fans scratching their heads with both equally amusing. Casey’s ‘foul’ was anything but, yet it allowed for Aidan McCarthy to slot over a simple free. Take away that and award the late free and it’s still a one-point margin in Limerick’s favour.

Aaron Gillane had a similar collision to that between Kelly and Casey, with John Conlon, as the Clare man found the chest of the Patrickswell native with a shoulder but the free was given against the man of the match. Arguably, the yellow cards would have had far more of an impact on the encounter with both Casey and Hegarty curtailed in how they played the entire second half and much of the first.

In the cauldron that was the TUS Gaelic Grounds, there were going to be calls that both sides felt aggrieved by, but in the grand scheme of things, Gordon cannot be accused of influencing the final result. Instead Clare should point to inaccuracies in reasons for defeat as Limerick took full advantage of that.

11 June 2023; Cathal Malone of Clare gets to the ball ahead of William O’Donoghue of Limerick during the Munster GAA Hurling Championship Final match between Clare and Limerick at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Limerick’s incredible final record

12 finals played under John Kiely, 12 wins. Another final win, another incredible statistic for the Limerick juggernaut. Even when not at their best, this Treaty side always find the way and Sunday was no different. On the biggest stage, no one has been able to upset this Limerick side.

The incredible run dates back to the 2018 All-Ireland final and encapsulates every major final since barring the 2019 Liam MacCarthy decider. Against the defending champions Galway in a packed Croke Park, Kiely’s youthful side ended a 45-year wait for All-Ireland honours to usher in an age of unprecedented success. League and Munster honours were next to be annexed as Limerick returned to Croke Park in possession of all possible titles. However, Kilkenny shocked the nation with a one-point win to dethrone the champions.

Since then, the landscape has been all Limerick. 2020 will forever be remembered for the Covid-19 pandemic but it was also the perfect year for the Shannonsiders as they claimed ten successive competitive wins. Waterford were overturned in both the provincial and All-Ireland finals with the latter a show of dominance, winning back the Liam MacCarthy by virtue of an 11-point win. The following season a poor spring saw them lose their League crown but come championship there was no stopping the juggernaut, Tipp firstly feeling their full effect in the Munster final before Cork succumbed to the greatest All-Ireland final performance of all-time.

18 July 2021; Limerick captain Declan Hannon celebrates with the cup after the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Limerick and Tipperary at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Last year, Clare became the first team to breakeven with Kiely’s men in a final but were second best in extra-time of the provincial final with Limerick claiming a second ever four in a row. Kilkenny battled valiantly in the All-Ireland final but couldn’t reel in the champions who made it three on the trot.

The same teams met in the League final earlier as Limerick returned to the stage for the first time since 2020. The result was more comprehensive than that of Croke Park the previous with the Treaty looked upon as unbackable favourites for the championship. Clare halted their momentum in the round robin of Munster, inflicting a first loss since 2019 but Kiely’s men, with a bit of fortune, booked their spot in the provincial final and absorbed all thrown at them to maintain their perfect final record.

They are just one game from an All-Ireland final where they would be looking to make it thirteen times lucky.

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