BY NIALL SHERRY
PHOTOS BY INPHO
First 3-in-a-row for the Treaty
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final
Dublin July 17th
Limerick 1-31 Kilkenny 2-26
Limerick are All-Ireland Senior Hurling Champions for a third year running, following an epic encounter with Kilkenny at headquarters. When referee Colm Lyons sounded the long whistle, the Treaty County were two points to the good and the massive sea of green celebrated euphorically.
In time, this will be viewed as one of the great finals. This clash between the ‘new’ giants and hurling’s most successful ever county had a little bit of everything, drama, tension, skill, passion. You name it, it had it.
While Limerick led for long parts of the contest, Kilkenny refused to buckle and kept plugging away to ensure that this was one of the hardest earned titles for Limerick since their re-emergence in 2018. Every time the Cats asked questions of John Kiely’s side, the men in green answered, and their ability to do this eventually saw them home.
An early long range free from Patrickswell’s Diarmaid Byrnes opened the scoring with just under two minutes on the clock and Limerick soon added to this with a stunning goal from POTM, Gearóid Hegarty. A long ball sent towards the Kilkenny defence by keeper Nickie Quaid was cleverly kicked into the path of the marauding Hegarty, who showed great skill in getting the sliotar to hand before unleashing a fierce shot on the angle past Eoin Murphy in the Noresiders goal. Quite simply, a stunning finish.
Aaron Gillane then showed good improvisation when he lost his hurl, but still had the presence of mind to kick the ball over the ball to make it 1-2 to no score with almost 6mintues played. Kilkenny needed a score, and when that’s the case its normally TJ Reid that obliges and he do so from the placed ball.
Mikey Carey then took a wonderful catch before launching a pass towards Eoin Cody. The Shamrocks man took possession before rifling over a lovely point from out on the left under the Hogan Stand. Gillane TJ exchanged frees before O’Loughlin’s Paddy Deegan was turned over having taken a fine catch, Kildimo-Pallaskenry’s Kyle Hayes said thank you very much and sent over the point.
From Eoin Murphy’s puck-out, Byrnes took another stunning catch before firing over from inside his own half. Brian Cody’s side then hit a couple of quick-fire points via Paddy Deegan and Mossy Keoghan to to leave just a goal between the sides with 14 pulsating minutes gone at Croker. Tommy Walsh then mis-hit his sideline cut and Tom Morrissey took full advantage and slotted between the posts for a Treaty point. That man Hegarty then took possession out on the right and duly pointed to highlight his influence on the proceedings.
The Reid brothers then hit a point each to reduce the gap to one score, but Hegarty again was finding it all too easy to find space and sent over another exhibition style point. Some good pressure saw the Cats turn the ball over via TJ, who’s pass sent Mikey Carey in for an easy point, before Aaron Gillane gathered the sliotar, took a couple of hits and fired over a nice point having shortened the grip to make the shot.
Seamus Flanagan then took possession from the puck out and split the posts with another mighty score. TJ then showed more of his nous by finding club mate Adrian Mullen under the Cusack Stand with a short pass. Mullen somehow managed to strike over from the far sideline for a classy point. While the game was flowing nicely, referee Colm Lyons in my opinion was a little quicker to award those in green frees, than others in black and amber. Diarmaid Byrnes then took advantage of this and popped over a free some 30 metres from his own net. An unbelievable strike from a free that should never have been.
Hawk Eye was then deployed for the first time in the game on 25 minutes after that man Hegarty struck another mighty shot, and after the technological intervention, the point stood. Limerick’s lead was now 6 points. The little warrior that is O’Loughlin’s Mikey Butler was then fouled and TJ popped over the placed ball from wide on the left side. Limerick’s Gillane then registered another free for his side.
TJ, who was again demonstrating his legendary status, picked out Paddy Deegan with a lovely pass and the Kilkenny No.7 evaded a challenge before rifling over a lovely long-range score. Limerick captain Declan Hannon was then afforded the freedom of Croke Park and fired over his customary score; not enough pressure applied in this case. TJ registered another couple of frees for the Cats, while Kyle Hayes replied for the Treaty. Tullaroan’s Padraig Walsh then got on score sheet but those in green hit back immediately through a nice point from the defensive based Morrissey brother, Dan. Padraig Walsh then got his second score of the day, before Seamus Flanagan did likewise for Limerick.
The final score of a fast and furious first half came from a TJ placed ball, after Billy Ryan was halted illegally. At the short whistle, the holders led by 4, 1-17 to 0-16. TJ Reid and Gearoid Hegarty the main men on show in a cracking opening period, in which the champions scored 1-14 from play.
Brian Cody chose to make one change during the interval. Tullogher-Rosbercon’s Walter Walsh replacing the Village’s Cian Kenny for the second half.
Kilkenny won the throw-in and went on the attack, but Eoin Cody’s effort was off target. From the restart, Hegarty won the ball and passed to his partner in crime, Kyle Hayes who notched his 3rd point of the game. Gillane then got the better of Huw Lawlor and just like it seemed the goal was opening up from him, he opted for raising a white flag to push his sides lead back out to 6 points.
Then hope was well and truly restored to the Cats players and supporters. A long puck out was collected by Walter Walsh who powered his way in from the right before flicking the ball across goal. Mossy intelligently let the sliotar run past him and Billy Ryan collected it and fired past Limerick keeper Quaid to the net! Game on!
The sides then traded points, Hegarty for Limerick, Adrian Mullen for Kilkenny. Diarmaid Byrnes then added a ‘65 to his tally after Tommy Walsh deflected an effort that was going wide behind. The Cats defence then crowded out a Treaty attack, before launching an attack of their own. Eoin Murphy found Walter with a lovely pass and the big man split the posts from under the Hogan! Walsh was having a massive impact. The biggest impact on the game was that of Hegarty, the monster of a man was enjoying his tussle with Paddy Deegan, and drew a foul that irked the defender. Gillane pointed, now a 4-point game.
The Cats faithful then dared to dream again. Captain Richie Reid played a long ball towards his brother. TJ as per usual fielded it brilliantly and despite losing his stick hand passed towards the danger zone. Eoin Cody stretched to flick the sliotar towards Mossy, who gathered the ball, turned and fired to the Treaty net! 47 minutes played, now just the bare minimum between the sides. Thomastown’s John Donnelly, only on the pitch a matter of seconds, then fired over a stunning point from half way. all square in Croker!
Kiely’s men were certainly being tested, and again they responded. Hegarty passed to Tom Morrissey who fired over to calm the Limerick supporters’ nerves. Brynes landed another free, before Morrissey repeated his earlier score. From all square, to a 3-point lead for the reigning champions. Tom would land his 3rd point just after TJ registered a free from his own half. Incredible stuff. TJ struck another placed ball over after Paddy Deegan was fouled, and Adrian Mullen then got his 3rd of the day , another stunning score form the Ballyhale warrior.
Cats boss Cody then sent on Richie Hogan for Eoin Cody and it proved fruitful immediately. Fellow sub, David Blanchfield picked out Hogan who composed himself, before firing over a cracking score and punching the air in delight. Limerick’s response? 3 points on the spin via Kyle Hayes and subs Conor Boylan and Cathal O’Neill. Paddy Deegan then fouled Hayes and Arron Gillane slotted the free. Limerick now 4 ahead.
The game was now entering 4 minutes of added time. The next score needed to be a Kilkenny one, but Hegarty would take that honour and notch his 5th point of the day. Cody’s Cats did not give up, they rattled off 3 more points, Tommy Walsh, Alan Murphy and David Blanchfield. The gap was back to 2 points. Time was not to be their friend, as Colm Lyons sounded the long whistle. A massive effort from all in black and amber, but Limerick regain their crown. Final score, Limerick 1-31, Kilkenny 2-26.
Scorers for Limerick: G. Hegarty (1-5); A. Gillane (0-7, 3 frees); D. Byrnes (0-5, 3 frees, 1 65); T. Morrissey, K. Hayes (0-4 each); S. Flanagan (0-2); D. Hannon, D. Morrissey, C. O’Neill, C. Boylan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilkenny: T.J. Reid (0-9, frees); M. Keoghan (1-1); B. Ryan (1-0); A. Mullen (0-3); P. Deegan, P. Walsh (0-2 each); E. Cody, R. Reid, M. Carey, W. Walsh, J. Donnelly, R. Hogan, T. Walsh, A. Murphy, D. Blanchfield (0-1 each).
LIMERICK: N. Quaid; S. Finn, M. Casey, B. Nash; D. Byrnes, D. Hannon (c), D. Morrissey; W. O’Donoghue, D. O’Donovan; G. Hegarty, K. Hayes, T. Morrissey; S. Flanagan, A. Gillane, G. Mulcahy.
Subs for Limerick: P. Casey for G. Mulcahy (49); D. Reidy for D. O’Donovan (52); C. Boylan for S. Flanagan (60); C. O’Neill for T. Morrissey (64).
KILKENNY: E. Murphy; M. Butler, H. Lawlor, T. Walsh; M. Carey, R. Reid (c), P. Deegan; C. Kenny, C. Browne; A. Mullen, P. Walsh, E. Cody; T.J. Reid, M. Keoghan, B. Ryan.
Subs for Kilkenny: C. Fogarty for C. Browne (temp 17-25); J. Donnelly for P. Walsh (47); D. Blanchfield for C. Browne (53); R. Hogan for E. Cody (59).
Referee: C. Lyons (Cork).