Limerick's height, Kilkenny's resilience and Gearoid Hegarty, the last scorer

Limerick’s height, Kilkenny’s resilience and Gearoid Hegarty, the last scorer

1. Limerick’s flinging greatness

Completing three consecutive All-Ireland Senior Hurling Stage highlights this Limerick team further. Since Cork achieved this in 1976-78 there have been several outstanding teams who have not been able to repeat this feat – Kilkenny and Galway in the 80s, Kilkenny in the 90s, Cork in the 2000s. Brian Cody’s masterful Kilkenny team put together four on the go between 2006 and 2009, with Limerick becoming the first team since to have a trio of consecutive victories.

After their breakthrough win in 2018, this group was thrown back in 2019. It has since proven to be a brief pause in their flow, with a string of successes. After winning in two Covid-hit campaigns, their outstanding consistency surfaced again this season as they returned to the round-robin format in the provinces.

After 1940, Limerick won only one of the next 77 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championships. Now they have won the Liam MacCarthy Cup four times in five seasons. This is truly a golden era for hurling in the county.

William O’Donoghue celebrates Limerick’s win.

Credit: James Crombie/INPHO

2. Kilkenny show resilience but are disappointed again

Kilkenny’s wait for an All-Ireland title continues. Her last success was in 2015, this was her third last loss since, a pair against Tipperary and today’s reversal against Limerick. Coupled with semi-final defeats to Waterford in 2020 and Cork in 2021, it’s another example of Croke Park’s disappointment in visiting their group.

But while the county’s rich history raises the standards by which they are judged, this was a magnificent demonstration of resilience in the face of defeat. Limerick’s turbocharged start, exemplified by Hegarty’s stunning finish on the web, meant the game was in danger of escaping Kilkenny. But they persevered through difficult periods in the first half and then broke the game with two goals in the third quarter.

Kilkenny equalized twice in the second half but failed to critically advance. Their defiant attitude contributed greatly to an exciting competition.

3. Limerick’s decisive hit bursts

All season Limerick have endured grueling tests of their qualifications but each time they have found a way to respond. That trait reappeared here today, explaining why they ended the day as champions. In the first half, Kilkenny came within a goal on three occasions and Limerick responded to their challenge with a points injection.

The second half featured more challenging scenarios. The two goals gave Kilkenny renewed energy, John Donnelly then struck over the point in the 47th minute that leveled the team 2-19 to 1-22. Limerick responded with the next three points of the game thanks to the excellent Tom Morrissey (2) and Diarmaid Byrnes.

Kilkenny were level again as Richie Hogan hovered over a glorious shot in the 63rd minute and Limerick hit back again with five unanswered points thanks to Kyle Hayes, Cathal O’Neill, Conor Boylan, Aaron Gillane and the towering Gearoid Hegarty. When questions are asked, Limerick invariably finds the answers.

tj-reid-dejected-after-the-game

Dejected TJ Reid after the game.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

4. Kilkenny’s elder statesmen shine

When Kilkenny needed inspiration during the game there were familiar faces who provided it. TJ Reid’s accuracy from Frees meant they retained an interest in the first half, while his creativity was shown again in the afternoon – a clever assist for Paddy Deegan’s point in the 29th minute, a superb catch to find Adrian Mullen in the Allowing the point 40 minutes Another rousing strike to set the train in motion which culminated in Keoghan’s goal.

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Walter Walsh came on at half-time and his introduction livened up Kilkenny’s attack. He started the second half sensationally, rushing through to set up Billy Ryan’s goal, overplaying a wonderful point himself and nabbing another puckout that nearly gave Padraig Walsh the point.

And then there was the uplifting sight for Kilkenny supporters of Richie Hogan, who had relentless injury problems, was introduced and added a magic point in the 63rd minute to level the teams up. Kilkenny’s elder statesmen could not quite lead their team to a famous victory, but their contribution proved their worth to the cause that endures.

5. Hegarty, the top scorer, again

It’s odd to think about the fact that Gearoid Hegarty went scoreless in his maiden All-Ireland Finals appearance of 2018. Since then, he’s started a trend of stealing the show on the biggest day of the hurling year. The St Patrick’s man shot 7-0 at Waterford in December 2020 and tore Cork apart with his 2-2 record in August 2021.

He started in style today with a fabulous finish at the net in the early stages and bombed Limerick’s last point of the game in the 71st minute. In between, he had snatched another four points from the game, though his mix of power, strength, poise and accuracy caused Kilkenny a lot of trouble. A 1-5 return is another addition to Hegarty’s impressive All-Ireland Finals collection.

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