Limerick win first All-Ireland SHC title since '73
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final
LIMERICK 3-16 GALWAY 2-18
By John Harrington at Croke Park
Limerick’s long wait is finally over.
45 years of hurt were washed away when Declan Hannon became the first Treaty County captain since 1973 to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup to the skies after a heart-stopping All-Ireland Final.
It looked like the Shannonsiders were coasting towards a comfortable win when Shane Dowling’s 68th minute goal gave them an eight-point lead.
But the hurling gods simply refused to let arguably the greatest hurling championship of all time end with anything other than a cymbal crashing crescendo.
In the ten minutes of injury-time played Galway summoned an almighty late charge that saw them score 2-2 and win a last-gasp free that gave Joe Canning a chance to level it at the death.
It was just outside his range though, and when the ball dropped into a forest of hurleys and hands it was Limerick’s Tom Condon who won it.
He managed to wriggle clear from the pack and hand-passed it out to Tom Morrisssey on the wing as James Owens blew the final whistle to send every Limerick person in the stadium to seventh heaven.
Maybe doing it the hard way will have made it feel all the more special for Limerick, but for a long time it looked like they were going to win this match with surprising ease.
Galway have made a habit of starting quickly in matches this year, but right from the start they were very much on the back-foot in this match.
Limerick’s industry without the ball was hugely impressive, and it meant Galway men had barely a second to get their head up before being engulfed in green.
The Limerick forwards were setting the tone in this regard, harrying and hassling for all their worth, and the sight of a Galway ball-carrier being set upon by packs of hungry tacklers was quickly becoming commonplace.
Limerick betrayed their nerves with some poor shooting, but overall the way they settled into the match was hugely impressive as they quickly raced into a three-point lead.
Aaron Gillane, who was being picked up by Daithi Burke, opened the scoring, and then Kyle Hayes and Graeme Mulcahy followed up with two more points.
The Hayes point summed up Limerick’s attitude in the opening exchanges.
He burst a gut to intercept an Adrian Tuohey short pass from defence, and then lanced the ball confidently over the bar.
There was more method to Limerick’s attacking play than Galway’s. The Tribesmen were lumping the ball long into Jonathan Glynn and hoping for the best, but Limerick full-back Mike Casey was sticking doggedly to his task despite a big disadvantage in height and weight.
A Joe Canning ’65 and a nice point from David Burke got Galway off the mark, and by the 15th minute they had drawn level on five points apiece.
They briefly moved into the lead when Joe Cooney pointed, but then Limerick landed the heaviest blow of the match yet when they scored a scrappy goal.
Hayes did brilliantly to pick out Mulcahy with a cross-field ball but as the corner-forward bore down on goal he was stripped of possession.
He managed to scuff the ball on the ground in front of him and then got a lucky break when James Skehill’s attempt to smother it seemed to ricochet of McInerney and back into Mulcahy’s path which allowed him to scuff it over the line from close range.
By the 28th minute Limerick were 1-8 to 0-6 ahead thanks to a Tom Morrissey point and two inspirational long-rangers from their increasingly influential captain Declan Hannon.
They really should have been even more than five points ahead by now though, because they’d also hit 10 wides, many of them of the poor variety.
Galway were just about hanging in there, and three points in a row from Burke, Canning (f) and Joseph Cooney had the gap down to three as the first-half bled into injury-time.
There was one last Limerick flourish before half-time though, as a Gillane free and a classy Seamus Flanagan gave them a four point lead going to the dressing-room that probably didn’t fully reflect how dominant they had been.
They weren’t as profligate in the second-half though, and before long their dominance was being reflected in a more substantial manner on the score-board.
Centre-forward Kyle Hayes was starting it lord it over Galway centre-back Gearoid McInerney, and three points from him had helped Limerick into a 1-15 to 0-10 lead by the 44th minute.
Galway were looking like a tired team now as they struggle to cope with the pace a faster, hungrier Limerick side were setting.
One man in maroon simply refused to give in though – Joe Canning.
The greatest hurler of his generation further gilded that status by playing some incredible hurling in the final 30 minutes of the match.
His initial surge saw him score two classy points from play, but Galway were back on life-support when Tom Morrissey then struck for Limerick’s second goal.
He did brilliantly to dispossess McInerney and go around Adrian Tuohey before controlling the ball with great skill one-handed on his hurley and then lashing it to the back of the net.
Back came Canning with three more points for Galway to reduce the gap to a manageable five before Dowling floored the Tribesmen again with Limerick’s third goal.
Once more, the work ethic of the Limerick forwards played a crucial part in the score as Peter Casey blocked Tuohey’s attempted clearance and then played in Dowling who finished emphatically to the right-corner.
You figured that had to be that, but Galway were resuscitated when Conor Whelan escaped Richie English for the first time in the match to score a life-line of a goal.
Five minutes later Canning lashed a 21 yard free to the back of the net, and suddenly there were only two points between the teams, Limerick leading by 3-15 to 2-16.
Limerick supporters must surely have been thinking this could be ’94 all over again, especially when Niall Burke intercepted a miscued Graeme Mulcahy pass and pointed to reduce the gap to just one.
But Mulcahy atoned for that sin by then scoring a brilliant point to edge Limerick two ahead once more.
There was time for even more late drama though as Canning nervelessly nailed a ’65 in the eight minute of injury-time, presumably after being told there would be time for one more passage of play after the resulting puck-out.
He couldn’t produce any more heroics though as his last-gasp free from around 90 yards fell short, and Limerick cleared their lines to send their supporters delirious.
Scorers for Limerick: Graeme Mulcahy 1-2, Tom Morrissey 1-1, Kyle Hayes 0-4, Shane Dowling 1-0, Aaron Gillane 0-3 (2f), Declan Hannon 0-2, Seamus Flanagan 0-1, Cian Lynch 0-1, Darragh O’Donovan 0-1, Diarmuid Byrnes 0-1.
Scorers for Galway: Joe Canning 1-10 (1-5f), Conor Whelan 1-0, Joseph Cooney 0-3, David Burke 0-3, Padraic Mannion 0-1, Niall Burke 0-1.
LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid; Sean Finn, Michael Casey, Richie English; Diarmuid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Dan Morrisey; Darragh O’Donovan, Cian Lynch; Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, Tom Morrissey; Aaron Gillane, Seamus Flanagan, Graeme Mulcahy. Subs: Richie McCarthy for Mike Casey (50), Shane Dowling for Gearoid Hegarty (56), Peter Casey for Seamus Flanagan (64), William O’Donoghue for Darragh O’Donovan (67), Tom Condon for Richie English (72)
GALWAY: James Skehill; Adrian Tuohey, Daithi Burke, John Hanbury; Padraic Mannion, Gearoid McInerney, Aidan Harte; Johnny Coen, David Burke; Joseph Cooney, Joe Canning, Jonathan Glynn; Conor Whelan, Conor Cooney, Cathal Mannion. Subs: Niall Burke for Cathal Mannion (46), Paul Killeen for John Hanbury (57), Jason Flynn for Conor Cooney (58), Sean Loftus for Johnny Coen (60), Fearghal Flannery for James Skehill (61)
Ref: James Owens (Wexford)