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Limerick find the answers, what Galway got right, primed Kilkenny and abject Clare

5 talking points after the All-Ireland SHC semi-finals.

Kyle Hayes and Padraic Mannion.
Kyle Hayes and Padraic Mannion.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Limerick show hallmarks of champions

LIMERICK SHOWED THEIR resolve to edge out Galway, sealing their third straight All-Ireland final appearance and fourth in fifth year.

When the pressure came on in the second-half, the Treaty stood up and reminded everyone why they’re the kingpins of hurling.

They never panicked, even after Brian Concannon’s early second-half goal brought Galway right back into the contest. Despite quieter performances from key men like Gearoid Hegarty and Seamus Flanagan, the Treaty held their nerve in the closing stages when the game had to be one.

Much of it came down to the impact of John Kiely’s bench. David Reidy was the hero, firing over 0-3, outshining Hurler of the Year Cian Lynch, the returning Peter Casey and starlet Cathal O’Neill.  

2. Galway got so much right

It’s been difficult to get a gauge on Galway this season. Poor in the Leinster final against Kilkenny and off their best for long spells in their win over Cork, this was their most complete performance of the summer. 

They shook off a poor start and brought the fight throughout the 70 minutes. Their tackling was excellent, with Fintan Burke impressive on Hegarty and Padraic Mannion excellent at centre-back. 

Henry Shefflin got his game plan right. He abandoned the plan to use Cathal Mannion as sweeper in front of Aaron Gillane following a disastrous start where they fell 0-6 to 0-1 behind after 10 minutes.

Once Galway pushed up, they improved hugely. They capitalised on Limerick’s tendency to drop their half-backs deep by creating a huge amount of scoring chances in midfield. Galway got 27 shots off in the first-half, but converted just 12. Had they improved that tally, they may well be preparing for an All-Ireland final.

One moment for the Tribesmen to ponder. Should Conor Whelan have gone for goal in the 67th minute? He took a point to draw Galway level but had a good look at goal.

Ultimately it was Galway’s last score of the game, when a green flag would have electrified the underdogs. 

david-reidy-with-johnny-coen Limerick's David Reidy with Johnny Coen of Galway. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

3. Kilkenny make most of four-week gap

It was interesting to hear Brian Cody speak positively about the four-week break Kilkenny had since the Leinster final. 

Sometimes such a long wait between games can work against sides but Kilkenny looked perfectly primed for the semi-final.

They were outstanding from start to finish. TJ Reid looked back to his best with a man-of-the-match display. He clipped 0-10, seven of them from frees. 

Adrian Mullen was excellent with a five-point haul and overall Kilkenny were defensively sound. Mikey Butler was excellent in a man-marking role on Tony Kelly, only allowing him get off two shots from play.

They combined their usual aggression and work rate with clinical team play and efficiency. By the 45th minute they only had one wide on the board. To score 1-17 in the first-half was clinical Kilkenny at their best. 

martin-keoghan-celebrates-scoring-the-first-goal Kilkenny’s Martin Keoghan celebrates scoring the first goal of the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

4. Clare’s abject exit

Although Clare had only won once in their previous eight championship appearances against the Cats, there was an air of expectancy about them after their impressive summer so far. 

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Questions will have to be asked of that abject Banner display. They were poor for long spells against Wexford and a disastrous first-half here gave them no chance of victory.

Did Brian Lohan’s team run out of steam? After the heights they reached in the Munster final, it was a desperately poor way to conclude the season.  

The Banner were badly hampered by John Conlan’s injury and a wide count of 23.

5. Limerick-Kilkenny 

Limerick won’t have forgotten the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final in a hurry. 

Kilkenny’s shock 1-21 to 2-17 victory that afternoon went down as one of Brian Cody’s greatest victories. A win in the final on Sunday week would surpass that feat.

John Kiely has a difficult team selection ahead of him for the final. He substituted four of his starting six forwards yesterday, so naturally Cian Lynch and Peter Casey will push hard for starting places.

If Lynch’s fitness is up to scratch, it’s hard to see him being left off. 

After his tactical masterclass against Clare, you can be sure Cody will have a trick or two up his sleeve as well. 

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Croke Park

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