2nd half masterclass see’s Limerick retain Liam
BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final 2023
Croke Park, July 23rd
Kilkenny 2-15 Limerick 0-30
Limerick completed an All-Ireland 4-in-a-row for only the third time in championship history when they defeated Kilkenny with a blistering second half display at Croke Park last Sunday. Trailing by 3 points at the interval, John Kiely’s men notched 21 points after the short whistle to rubber-stamp their place in hurling folklore as they proved a bridge to far for Derek Lyng’s Cats in front of a capacity crowd at headquarters.
An early major in the second period from O’Loughlin’s Paddy Deegan appeared to stir The Treaty into top gear and they restricted the Noresiders to just five further points over the rest of the match. By the time Wicklow whistler John Keenan blew to signal the end of the 2023 final, Limerick were nine points to the good, worthy champions, again.
Derek Lyng was dealt a blow before the off when David Blanchfield was ruled out of the 26-man squad with the injury sustained in their semi-final win over Clare. The Bennettsbridge man was replaced in the starting line-up by Walter Walsh, a change which saw Erins Own’s Conor Fogarty drop into the half-back line. Conahy Shamrocks Tom Phelan appeared to operate from a deeper middle third position, while Wally occupied a wing-forward role.
The first score of the final came from a booming effort by Paddy Deegan who blasted over from near on halfway in the opening minute. During the initial exchanges, you could see that this Cats side had the desire and work-rate in abundance as they set about disrupting the green machine as they played with the aid of a strong swirling wind. It took almost 5 minutes for Limerick to open their account, a well worked sideline cut was played to captain Cian Lynch who split the posts to get the scoreboard moving.
Patrickswell defender Diarmaid Byrnes nudged his side in front with a free on halfway after Adrian Mullen was adjudged to have fouled. The next score was to be a crucial one in the opening half. Glenmore’s Eoin Murphy played the restart short to Conor Fogarty who had pulled into space under the Hogan Stand. The Erins Own’s veteran looked up and sent in a long delivery deep into the Limerick defence. Mike Casey was unable to control it and a clever flick from Tom Phelan saw the sliotar picked up by captain Eoin Cody who ran on the angle before striking a fierce low shot across Nickie Quaid to the back of the Limerick net. Ten minutes gone, Kilkenny up by two points.
Spurred on by their captain’s goal, a Tom Phelan point came second later. Another of the Patrickswell contingent, Aaron Gillane got his side’s third score of the day before Conahy’s Phelan rifled over another point after some good work by Adrian Mullen. Limerick’s William O’Donoghue picked up a yellow card for a late hit on Mullen in the build up to that score. Another yellow card followed, this time for Diarmaid Byrnes who went a little high on O’Loughlin’s Mikey Butler. Cats keeper Eoin Murphy then sent over a booming free from his own ‘45 before the recently booked Byrnes nailed another free from the middle of the park. The Treaty then sent a long ball into Gillane who used the yard of space he earned to pop a lovely point over the bar.
TJ Reid then rose highest, took a superb catch before being fouled. The result, TJ nailed the free. His Shamrocks Ballyhale clubmate Eoin Cody then produced a lovely bit of skill before being halted illegally. TJ punished the indiscretion. Younger brother Richie then picked up possession out on the left before sending over a wonderful score and this was added to by another TJ free on 28 minutes. Kilkenny’s lead was now six. Noresiders in the ground were daring to dream.
Mikey Butler was then lucky to escape a booking when he took a swipe across the legs of the opposition captain Cian Lynch. Aaron Gillane popped over the free and the No.13 was involved moments later when he off-loaded a long delivery into the path of Lynch, who notched another point. Lynch then turned provider and set up centre-forward David Reidy for a nice score. The Cats lead was back to 3 points. TJ then sent over a free from halfway after his brother had been upended. There was time for one more score in the opening period, a slick piece of Limerick play saw Ahane’s Tom Morrissey fire over to leave the halftime score at Croker, Kilkenny 1-9, Limerick 0-9.
Kilkenny made a change at the break and sent on Tullaroan’s Padraig Walsh in place of Conor Fogarty. The first two scores after the interval came from the holders, a brace from the deadly Diarmaid Byrnes. Eoin Murphy then found Tom Phelan with a lovely restart and the impressive Conahy man split the posts to settle his side. If that was a settling score, the next one reignited the supporters dreams. A long ball found that man Phelan. Tom picked up possession and headed for goal. Despite seemingly being outnumbered, he had the presence of mind to pop a pass to his left where Paddy Deegan was lurking. The O’Loughlin’s man took aim and fired the ball across Quaid and through the side of the net! GOAL!
Derek Lyng’s men now had a 5-point lead after 42 minutes of pulsating action. Could this be the end of the drought?
The second major from the Cats appeared to awaken the green machine. Between the 37th and 43rd minute, John Kiely’s side hit five unanswered points with Peter Casey, Barry Nash, Gearoid Hegarty registering efforts along with Brynes and Gillane. And just like that, the sides were level. The Treaty faithful had well and truly found their voices inside Croke Park. In a bid to stem the rising Limerick tide, Alan Murphy entered the fray in place of Walter Walsh. Eoin Cody was then fouled in and around midfield and this gave TJ the chance to get a much-needed Kilkenny score.
Limerick wing-back Byrnes then struck over another long-range free before Cian Lynch assisted Doon’s Darragh O’Donovan for a well-taken score. Patrickwell’s Gillane then popped over another placed ball before the hugely impressive Byrnes struck for another brace of points. Another 5-point burst from the Treaty juggernaut. The Village’s Cian Kenny replaced the quiet Billy Ryan as the Kilkenny management team tried to arrest their sides slide. Kiely’s men had a 4-point lead. TJ broke the cycle a little when he fired over a free on 56 minutes and Thomastown’s John Donnelly added a nice point from play a minute later.
St Patricks Gearoid Hegarty who was heavily involved in lots of work for his side after the short whistle then fired over a trademark score from midfield. Adrian Mullen, who had been operating on the periphery of the game then struck a fine point to reduce the deficit to two points, but again this was the signal for the Treaty to turn the screw further again. Na Piarsaigh’s Peter Casey, who had been fairly anonymous in the opening 35 minutes, then hit a beauty of a point from under the Hogan Stand, those in green really cheered that particular score. The Limerick radar was well and truly in. Next to register for the green machine was wing-back Kyle Hayes, another effort from way out the park.
Having found a new lease of life during the interval, Peter Casey hit a quickfire brace to stretch the Limerick lead to six points. Our lads looked out on their feet both physically and mentally. They just didn’t have the resolve to halt the green tide. After a false start, Saturday’s groom, Cillian Buckley was thrown on to try and shackle the rampant Treaty attack, but it would be a Limerick sub that notched the next point in the shape of Cathal O’Neill. Richie Hogan was sprung from the bench, for what may well be his last appearance in the black and amber of his beloved Kilkenny. Dromin’s David Reidy then pointed as the gap grew to eight. Five minutes of normal time remaining, but it looked like the Cats belief had been crushed.
TJ struck over a placed ball for his 7th point of the day on 68 minutes, but this was to be Kilkenny’s last score of the game. Two more scores for the Treaty followed a 5th for the lively Peter Casey and a second for Crecora’s Cathal O’Neill. Referee John Keenan then sounded the full-time whistle. 4-in-a-row for the Treaty had been achieved. More hurt for our senior hurlers. Final score in Croke Park, Kilkenny 2-15, Limerick 0-30.
Scorers for Kilkenny: T.J. Reid (0-7, 6 frees, 1 65); E. Cody, P. Deegan (1-0 each); T. Phelan (0-3); P. Deegan, E. Murphy (free), R. Reid, J. Donnelly, A. Mullen (0-1 each).
Scorers for Limerick: D. Byrnes (0-8, 7 frees); A. Gillane (3 frees), P. Casey (0-5 each); C. Lynch, G. Hegarty, D. Reidy, C. O’Neill (0-2 each); T. Morrissey, B. Nash, D. O’Donovan, K. Hayes (0-1 each).
KILKENNY: E. Murphy; M. Butler, H. Lawlor, T. Walsh; C. Fogarty, R. Reid, P. Deegan; A. Mullen, J. Donnelly; W. Walsh, T.J. Reid, T. Phelan; B. Ryan, M. Keoghan, E. Cody.
Subs: P. Walsh for C. Fogarty (h-t); A. Murphy for W. Walsh (48); C. Kenny for B. Ryan (54); C. Buckley for T. Walsh (64); R. Hogan for C. Buckley (temp 65-68); R. Hogan for J. Donnelly (69).
LIMERICK: N. Quaid; M. Casey, D. Morrissey, B. Nash; D. Byrnes, W. O’Donoghue, K. Hayes; D. O’Donovan, C. Lynch (c); G. Hegarty, D. Reidy, T. Morrissey; A. Gillane, S. Flanagan, P. Casey.
Subs: C. O’Neill for T. Morrissey (55); G. Mulcahy for S. Flanagan (62); C. Boylan for G. Hegarty (68); B. Murphy for D. O’Donovan (70+2); A. Costello for M. Casey (70+4).
Referee: J. Keenan (Wicklow)
Down but not out!
Lyng laments missed chances but tips his hat to Limerick
Kilkenny boss Derek Lyng felt a decision or two that went Limerick’s way in the All-Ireland final didn’t help side side’s cause, but acknowledged his Cats were beaten by a better team.
“They get a run on you, and they got some fantastic scores from out the field.
“A few decisions, they got them today at crucial times as well – 50/50 calls. And the reality is we needed to get those today.
“I felt at times there were chances we didn’t take, and we needed to take everything today. But I can’t fault the effort of our players. They were outstanding all year; they gave everything today but sometimes you are just not good enough on the day and that’s really the story.”
Leading his beloved Kilkenny in his first All-Ireland senior final, the Cats were on top for long periods of the first half, and even had the audacity to be leading by six points at one stage, though like champions do, Limerick reduced that deficit to one score by half-time.
“There is no magic to it,” Lyng told the National broadcaster. “The lads just worked really hard throughout the field. We had our matchups going well, our shape was good, we attacked the puckout, we were going at them.
“But even at half-time I felt there were a couple of easier chances we didn’t take.
“They got a run, they got scores from everywhere, they are quality hurlers, credit to them, they are a fantastic team.
“We’re disappointed. The key is just to try and stay in the game at that stage. We have to suck it up now they were the better team.”
The Emeralds clubman will now turn his attention to the club scene and hope that this year’s championships yield a few new faces that can be added to his panel for 2024, as the late summer and Autumn may well see have well-known faces depart the inter-county scene after many sterling years of service.
ALL IRELAND FINAL – KILKENNY PLAYER RATINGS
1. Eoin Murphy
Scored a 1st half monster free. Long restarts didn’t work out on the day overall. Murphy & Nickie Quaid are clearly the game’s top two netminders. 6
2. Mikey Butler
Decent 1st half. Like his teammates struggled when the green machine ramped it up. Peter Casey did what Tony Kelly couldn’t. 5
3. Huw Lawlor
Held one of this seasons to stars to just 2 from play. Without a doubt, his County’s best performer this season & will be the foundation for the Cats defence for years to come. 7
4. Tommy Walsh
Looked comfortable when dealing with Seamus Flanagan. but struggled big time when asked to curb the dangerous Peter Casey during Limerick’s fruitful third quarter. 6
8. Conor Fogarty
Excellent pass for Eoin Cody’s major. Got stuck in and did a lot of dirty work in the 1st half. Replaced at the interval due to injury. 6
6. Richie Reid
Read the play really well and his delivery was excellent in the opening half. Scored a point but struggled a little when Limerick moved Cian Lynch into his zone. 7
7. Paddy Deegan
Struck over the 1st point of the game. Contained Gearoid Hegarty well in the 1st half. Broke the net with a major early in the 2nd half. 7
9. Adrian Mullen
Wasn’t the former captain’s day. Scored a point but looked off the pace throughout. Better days ahead for the talented Shamrocks man. 5
12. John Donnelly
Notched 1 point and gave away fouls that Diarmaid Byrnes punished. Operated in the engine room but needed to be further forward. Hooked on 69 minutes. 5
10 Tom Phelan
Fantastic & frustrating. 1st final for the Conahy man helped create both Cats goals. Scorer of 3 good points. The odd handling error & caught in two minds at times. Will improve for the experience. Big future ahead. 7
24. Walter Walsh
Started in place of the injured Blanchfield. Struggled to get into the game & was hauled ashore early in the 2nd half. More impactful from the bench this season. 5
11. Martin Keoghan
Unlucky to slip at crucial moment in the 2nd half when he found himself inside for a possible major. Was shackled well by the men in green. 5
13. Billy Ryan
Roamed deep in search of the ball but failed to make any impact on the Treaty defence or scoreboard. 5
14. TJ Reid
Scorer of 7 placed balls. Always available & dropped deep for ball. No consolation, but this season’s championship top scorer. Hopefully not the end for one of the greatest. 7
15. Eoin Cody
Scored the first goal and tried his best to cause problems. Received no real quality ball in the 2nd half, didn’t trouble the scoreboard as much as he would have liked. He’ll be back. 6
Pádraig Walsh (5) Replaced Conor Fogarty at the break, plugged away
Alan Murphy (5) caused some trouble to Limerick & had efforts blocked
Cian Kenny (5) unable to stem the Treaty tide.
Cillian Buckley and Richie Hogan – not involved for long enough to rate.
> SHERRY SAYS FINAL REVIEW
Ok, so we probably travelled more in hope than expectation. I for one believed that we had improved from last year. Given Cillian Buckley’s late Leinster intervention, Conor Fogarty’s block on Mark Rodgers along with Eoin Murphy’s unbelievable save from Peter Duggan, there was a sense that to win the big one you need a bit of luck along the way. Could this be the end of the hurt endured since 2015?
3 points to the good at the interval was a decent start. We had the benefit of the wind in the opening period, but Limerick’s last few minutes saw them claw their way back into the game. When Paddy Deegan broke the net with that bullet on 42 minutes our hope was renewed.
Then enter the green machine. John Kiely’s men went on their usual 3rd quarter scoring burst. The Treaty outscored the Cats 0-11 to 1-2 in this period. It’s like Christmas – you know it’s coming, but you can’t stop it. Peter Casey in particular was highly impressive in the 2nd thirty-five, hitting 5 wonderful points and causing havoc with his roaming runs out the pitch.
Any team that can reel off 0-21 in a half while restricting their opponents to 1-6, well you don’t need me to tell you what the outcome normally is. It’s not easy to say, Limerick are good, they are very, very good. With their age profile, worryingly they may well add to their honours list with this panel of players. Since John Kiely took over, 13 finals, 13 wins. Joining Cork and Kilkenny as the only teams to achieve the famous 4 on the bounce, number 5 looks well within their grasp.
For our boys, I thought Tom Phelan showed why he is starting to nail down a starting berth, the Conahy man will get better and use the hurt of this final loss to drive on. Huw Lawlor’s battle with Aaron Gillane was immense. Holding the Patrickswell man to 2 points from play – He’s some full back. Richie Reid was immense, especially in the first half, but cute Kiely and Kinnerk moved Cian Lynch to centre forward and this caused the former captain lots of problems.
It’s not the time to talk about possible retirements, but you’d have to think that the likes of Richie Hogan and one or two others might well have some soul searching to do between now and the autumn.
This Cats panel will take a few days to shake this painful defeat off, then look to get back on the bike with their clubs. To Derek in his first year in charge, his backroom team and this panel of players, thank you for the journey that you have taken us on in 2023. We’ll see you for the Walsh Cup in 2024.