The All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship took place on Sunday, August 23 between Limerick and Cork in Dublin's Croke Park.
Easy All-Ireland crown for Limerick
Shannonside messiah John Kiely issued a declaration to worry all pretenders to the Liam MacCarthy throne after Sunday’s emphatic 3-32 to 1-22 win over Cork in the All-Ireland SHC final at Croke Park – Limerick are only going to get better.
It is hard to see how much better they can get judging by the destructive brilliance of Sunday’s first-half performance that put the Rebels back in their box by halftime as the Boys in Green cruised to a third title in four years.
It is even harder to see why Limerick will need to get better than this after a peach of a performance riddled with standout displays of hurling brilliance right across the pitch.
Consider the facts. Every Limerick forward had scored by the 18th minute, all of them from play. By that halftime whistle, they were 3-18 to 1-11 to the good thanks to a goal in just the second minute by Gearoid Hegarty who then added a second green flag before the break with the brilliant Aaron Gillane also bursting the Cork net.
Kieran Kingston’s Leesiders had no answer to the sheer power of their neighbors. They were out hurled across the park, not even Shane Kingston’s quick goal response to Hegarty’s early three-pointer doing anything to sway the green tide.
With 40,000 fans glued to the tenacity and passion of their play and millions more admiring on big screens all across the world, the incredible Cian Lynch inspired as Limerick strolled to their 10th All-Ireland and their first back to back wins. It was that easy.
As he enjoyed the moment and the noise as fans returned to Croke Park in real numbers, Limerick boss Kiely reflected on the transition since 2017 that has turned his team into serial winners, then told the media and his players there is more to come from this team once they enjoy this latest win.
Kiely declared, “I’m not worrying about what’s coming down the road, at all. For me, at the moment, it’s about now, it’s about enjoying today. To have a performance like that and a success like we had today, we have to savor those things.
“It was great to have the crowd here. To have all our supporters, family members and club members, friends and colleagues, all with us. And the wider GAA community in Limerick. I hope to God, and I think that I’m right in saying that people very much appreciate how fortunate they are to be alive and able to witness what these boys have done for them.
“These boys are on an upward trajectory. And we intend on keeping them on that upward trajectory.”
Having spent 44 years in the All-Ireland wilderness before his arrival five winters ago, it is easy to see why Kiely is now walking on water in the Treaty city.
Even he admitted, “It is hard to comprehend. It just seems like yesterday that we had two championship games in 2017 and lost them both. We were facing into a winter of complete and utter, total soul-searching. We just managed to turn it around. There is a great work ethic in the group, great confidence in the group.
“We might have had a disappointment in 2019 but is it something we obsess about? It’s not. We took our beating that day. Kilkenny were the better team, end of story, move on.
“We struggled early this year because we had a lot of work to do when we came back. We were incrementally building towards today during the course of the year, but we had setbacks along the way, such as the Munster final first half against Tipperary, a complete and utter fail on our part to perform. But we got it right today.”
Captain Declan Hannon, who has now joined Christy Ring as a three man All-Ireland winning skipper, was singled out by Kiely afterwards when his boss said, “It’s just the sheer honesty of the guy. I was here in 2013 with him when he had a day that things just didn’t work out for him. He had a really tough time at that stage but he always stuck with it.
“The honesty of the guy is something that you can see every time he takes to the field. I guarantee that most of the guys around him will tell you that if they make a mistake, one of the first guys that’s down the drainpipe trying to help him out is Declan.”
For star man Cian Lynch it was all about family as he basked in this latest glory, his family in the stands and back at home and the brothers in arms out on the pitch.
Lynch told RTE Sport, “It goes back to growing up in Limerick, aspiring to represent your club and your county. We go on about our family and friends at home but when we go out onto the field or to training this is our family.
“Especially the last 18 months, we have each other and at the end of the day that is all we have. We walk between the white lines, fight for each other and die for each other. For these supporters that is what it is about.
“I try to get up in the morning and be grateful that I can do so and attack the day. To be able to go with these lads training, have the backroom staff, have my mother and father have my gear ready, that is what it’s about. It’s special for your brothers, sisters, the supporters here. It’s a cliché, but the Limerick supporters are the best in the world.”
With this Limerick squad full of young talent, the onus is now on the players to deliver consistently over the coming years according to forward Tom Morrissey.
He said, “You’re not going to rest on your laurels. While we’re going to enjoy this one -- and you have to enjoy them when you do win it -- there’s always going to be an eye and a focus on the next one.
“You don’t want to be satisfied. If you get complacent inside in that dressing room that’s going to be our downfall. So we’ll take our break, get refreshed, go back to the clubs -- something I’m looking forward to -- and then come in with Limerick again. It’ll be about pushing it and wanting to go on and go further again.”
You can watch the full Cork vs Limerick 2021 GAA Hurling Senior Championship All-Ireland Final here, courtesy of the GAA:
A Tough Day for the Rebels
Cork were never at the races in Dublin on Sunday, never mind in contention for the greatest prize in hurling, but Rebels boss Kieran Kingston was quick to acknowledge why afterwards – the sheer brilliance of this current Limerick team.
As hurling’s Green Army celebrated back-to-back All-Ireland final wins for the first time in the county’s history, Kingston was happy to place them on a pedestal only occupied by the great Kilkenny team of the Eddie Keher era.
“The best I’ve seen since the great Kilkenny team,” said Kingston when asked to describe this current Limerick outfit. “The media were raving about the Dublin footballers when they had won four-in-a-row, this Limerick team were the puck of a ball, or a disputed ‘65’ from a four-in-a-row, three Munsters and two National Leagues, so we have to acknowledge that.
“They play it on the edge, they’re physical, they’re huge men, they’re really good hurlers, they’re well-coached and they’re a humble bunch afterward when you meet them outside.”
“We were turned over a significant number of times in all areas of the pitch. When we looked like being in the ascendancy or on the offensive, then suddenly the ball would go over the bar on the other side.”
With an average age of 24, boosted by their All-Ireland under-20 final win a few days earlier, time is on Cork’s side as they analyze this defeat. Kingston knows his players will learn from it.
He added, “We came up here with a belief. They’re young, but young sides have won before in Croke Park. It was a chastening experience for them, no question about that. We came up against a team at another level to us. And they’ve been at another level to any other team in the country this year, and over the last three or four years.
“Any time you lose an All-Ireland final, it’s a massive, massive disappointment. Everybody is gutted because it’s a huge, huge amount of effort that went into getting us here. But I have to compliment and thank the backroom team and the players. Because since we got back together in April, they’ve worked extremely hard. They worked hard on their own prior to that.
“But look, these lads have a big future, they’re really, really hungry. They want to play for Cork, they want to play for the jersey but today we were just outgunned, out-everything.
“I do believe this team will be successful and when they are, it’s days like this that will make them stronger. It’ll teach them a lot, in many ways.”
*This report first appeared in the August 25 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.
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