This week's GAA news from Ireland.
Limerick Wins Epic Munster Clash
Those who portray hurling as the greatest field sport in the world mined more priceless currency in Thurles on Sunday as John Kiely’s All-Ireland champions Limerick finally saw off an incredible Clare challenge in extra time to lift the new Mick Mackey trophy on a 1-29 to 0-29 scoreline.
The Semple Stadium clash was so good that even Man of the Match Seamus Flanagan declared it a “game for the ages” as Limerick edged out their neighbors in a game of magic moments as personified by Tony Kelly’s sensational last-minute sideline puck for the point that sent it into added time.
A fourth successive Munster title was hard-earned for Kiely’s team who are now into the All-Ireland semifinal on the first weekend in July, with Clare next out in the quarterfinals.
This was a game that ebbed and flowed with the sides level at the break, Gearoid Hegarty getting the goal for Limerick as they returned 1-11 to Clare’s 0-14, seven of their first half points coming from the irrepressible Kelly.
With neither side able to manage anything better than a two point lead in normal time, Declan Hannon’s late point edged Limerick towards the finishing line before Kelly’s astonishing equalizer from a sideline cut three minutes into injury time.
There was even the customary shemozzle in the tunnel before extra time when Limerick finally got their noses in front, inspired by the brilliance of Flanagan who closed out with eight points to his name.
“Unbelievable. What a game. It was a game for the ages,” said Flanagan in an RTE interview afterwards. “Clare put it up to us all the way but all I can say is taking us to extra time, everything that happened there it was incredible to be involved in.
“An incredible game and one that will be remembered for the ages. Across the board, you could have picked out 15 fellas in each team that played absolutely unbelievable stuff. We were delighted and thank God we came out on top. But it was a hard-fought battle and nip and tuck throughout the whole game.”
For winning boss Kiely, the fact that Limerick are the first winners of the new Mick Mackey trophy made the victory even sweeter.
“The Mackey name is just synonymous with Limerick hurling and we’re very proud to have been a part of that group that did that,” he said.
“We’re hugely proud of it and it’s something that nobody can ever take away from us as a group. It took a huge effort but it’s worth it and we certainly had to earn it for sure.
“I’m just really proud of our guys, the way they stuck at it. It wasn’t maybe going our way at times and sometimes that’s just the way the game flows but you just have to keep after it and I was really proud the way our lads did that.
“All hats off to my crew, I am so proud of them. We had a tough spring. We worked really hard. We have come through the round-robin and as you can see, we really wanted to win this game today.”
Clare will now face Kerry or Wexford in the All-Ireland quarterfinals, and manager Brian Lohan believes his team will be all the stronger for their Limerick lesson once the dust has settled on this defeat.
“Limerick are an exceptionally good team, an exceptionally good bunch of defenders. We knew that, and they got one goal chance and they took it. We probably got one, didn’t take it. At this pitch of sport and this pitch of hurling and up against that kind of team, it's tough lessons,” he said.
“We’ve a good group there that work exceptionally hard and they give their all every time they go out. We couldn’t ask for anymore. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t good enough today.”
Shefflin, Cody Still Chilly
It was all about the handshake again as Kilkenny caught Galway cold with a 0-22 to 0-17 Leinster SHC final win at Croke Park that was even more emphatic than the scoreline suggested. Not that the headline writers cared.
They were more worried about a repeat of the frosty handshake when these sides last met in the Championship back in May, and sure enough they weren’t disappointed at the end of the provincial decider.
Galway boss Henry Shefflin had to approach his former boss Brian Cody as the Kilkenny team awaited the trophy presentation. The shake was brief and Shefflin shook his team several times as he made his way back to the Galway contingent, for reasons we may never know as neither was open to debating their brief exchange when talking to the media afterward.
“I never consider myself as being somebody who should be anywhere with regard to our team,” said a stone-faced Cody. “The players win the games and everything happens on the field. I never look for any publicity or anything like that so I feel the same about things now.
“Our players are by far the most important thing that we have and also we would have huge respect for the teams we’re playing at all times, players, management, everybody, so look, the game goes ahead.”
Shefflin was as non-committal in terms of the story that everyone wanted to talk about after Kilkenny’s third Leinster title in a row left him with more questions than answers about his own side’s All-Ireland hopes this summer.
“It doesn’t bother managers,” Shefflin told RTE. “It’s about players, and players performing on the field. Kilkenny were the better players today. That’s really it.”
As for the game and the next steps, Cody wants improvement from his side before they resume action in the All-Ireland semifinal at the start of July. “To be Leinster champions is a terrific honor and something we want to achieve and also you get to the All-Ireland semifinal,” Cody told RTE Sport.
“Now it is essential that you improve. That’s the nature of championships. What won a Leinster final for us won’t win an All-Ireland semifinal for us. We’ve discovered that the last two years and in other years as well. We still didn’t finish the job off. So that’s the challenge now ahead of us to try and go that extra step.”
Shefflin has even more work to do ahead of the All-Ireland quarters finals after this defeat and he knows it. He admitted, “I’m disappointed for the players, I know they’re feeling it as well but to be fair Kilkenny were deserving winners. That sense of disappointment is pretty profound in our dressing room.
“I just felt we didn’t attack it enough, our defenders probably managed the tide a little but I just thought we’d no punch up front. We couldn’t get going whatsoever.”
Cork Moves On
Louth's summer of football is over and Cork remain in the All-Ireland frame after a 2-12 to 2-8 win for the Rebels in the qualifiers on Leeside as the home team put their recent difficulties behind them.
Interim Cork boss John Cleary said afterwards, “It was a tough winter for us. We lost four League games at the beginning, we lost a lot of players through injury, and we then lost our manager.
“There are a lot of lads who are new this year. We brought them into the panel with the view that they would be ready for next year, but they have had to be thrown in at the deep end. The likes of today and next week are all stepping stones and learning processes towards maybe getting up to Division 1 in two to three years’ time and competing at the top table.”
Louth were stubborn opponents throughout the game but manager Mickey Harte defended their defensive tactics afterwards. He said, “You have to cut the cloth to suit your means. There are different strokes for different folks. You gotta play to the conditions, you gotta play to the players at your disposal.
“We don’t have all our players at our disposal. Six or seven of our regulars from last year have not been available to us across the whole season.”
McEntee Future in Doubt
Clare finally got the better of Meath with a 1-11 to 1-9 All-Ireland SFC qualifier win in Cusack Park on Saturday, a result that may well spell the end of Andy McEntee’s six-year reign as Royals boss.
The failure to recover from the heavy Leinster final defeat to Dublin was clearly a factor for the visitors but McEntee refused to be drawn on his own future when he spoke to media afterward.
“Now is not the time to be talking about that,” said McEntee when asked about his own position. “Sometimes it’s swings and roundabouts. I have no complaints about Clare. They’re always very honest. There’s seldom much between us.
“But it’s hard to come out after the performance against Dublin and put a really good performance together here. We just made too many errors.”
For Clare boss Colm Collins, a first win in six attempts against McEntee and Meath was proof of the progress his side are making despite their recent Munster SFC loss to Limerick. “
“In the last couple of meetings we’ve had a great couple of performances against them. Delighted to get the win against Meath. And delighted to still be in the pot,” he said.
*This roundup first appeared in the June 8 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.
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