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Limerick's greatness, Kilkenny's resilience and Gearoid Hegarty the final scoring star

John Kiely’s team were crowned champions once more.

Kilkenny and Limerick players in action.
Kilkenny and Limerick players in action.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

1. Limerick’s hurling greatness

The completion of three-in-a-row on the All-Ireland senior hurling stage elevates this Limerick team further. Since Cork achieved that from 1976-78, there have been several outstanding sides unable to replicate that 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 bounce between 2006 and 2009, Limerick are the first side since then to achieve a trio of successive victories.

After their breakthrough win in 2018, this group were knocked back in 2019. It has proved a brief interruption to their flow with a string of successes since. Having won in two Covid-impacted campaigns, their outstanding consistency surfaced again this season in a return to the round-robin format in the provinces.

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

richie-english-and-william-odonoghue-celebrate William O'Donoghue celebrates Limerick's win. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. Kilkenny show resilience but end up disappointed again

Kilkenny’s wait for an All-Ireland title goes on. Their most recent success was in 2015, this was their third final loss since then, a pair at the hands of Tipperary and today’s reversal against Limerick. Coupled with the semi-finals defeats against Waterford in 2020 and Cork in 2021, it is another example of Croke Park disappointment visiting their group.

Yet while the county’s rich history raises the standards by which they are judged, this was a terrific showing of resilience in defeat. Limerick’s turbo-charged start, exemplified by the stunning finish to the net by Hegarty, meant the game threatened to get away from Kilkenny. But they hung in there during difficult stages in the first half and then broke the game open with a pair of third-quarter goals. 

Kilkenny drew level twice in the second half yet critically could not push ahead. Their display of defiance contributed greatly to a thrilling contest.

3. Limerick’s crucial scoring bursts

All season long Limerick have endured fierce examinations of their credentials but on each occasion they have found a way to respond. That trait surfaced again here today and explained why they finished the day as champions. On three occasions in the first half Kilkenny came within a goal of them and Limerick responded with an injection of points to their challenge.

The second half featured more demanding scenarios. The brace of goals provided Kilkenny with a renewed source of energy, John Donnelly then smashing over the 47th minute point that brought the teams level, 2-19 to 1-22. Limerick responded with the game’s next three points courtesy of the excellent Tom Morrissey (2) and Diarmaid Byrnes. 

Kilkenny were level again when Richie Hogan floated over a glorious 63rd minute shot and again Limerick hit back with five unanswered points courtesy of Kyle Hayes, Cathal O’Neill, Conor Boylan, Aaron Gillane and the supreme Gearoid Hegarty. When questions are asked, Limerick invariably locate the answers.

tj-reid-dejected-after-the-game A dejected TJ Reid after the game. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

4. Kilkenny’s elder statesmen shine

When Kilkenny required inspiration during the game, there were familiar faces providing it. TJ Reid’s accuracy from frees meant they retained an interest in the first half proceedings while his creativity was again on show over the afternoon – a clever assist for Paddy Deegan’s 29th minute point, a superb catch to enable Adrian Mullen to point in the 40th minute and another rousing fetch to kick-start the move that culminated in Keoghan’s goal.

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Walter Walsh came on at half-time and his introduction revived the Kilkenny attack. He began the second half sensationally, charging through to set up Billy Ryan’s goal, clipping over a wonderful point himself and grabbing another puckout that almost paved the way for Padraig Walsh to point.

And then there was the uplifting sight for the Kilkenny faithful of Richie Hogan, who has had relentless injury difficulties, being introduced and contributing a magical point in the 63rd minute that brought the sides level. Kilkenny’s elder statesmen could not quite drag their team to a famous win but their input proved their worth to the cause endures.

5. Hegarty the scoring star once more

It is curious to reflect on the fact that Gearoid Hegarty was scoreless in his first All-Ireland final appearance in 2018. Since then he has started a trend of show-stealing scoring displays on the biggest day of the hurling year. The St Patrick’s man fired 0-7 against Waterford in December 2020 and ripped Cork apart with his tally of 2-2 in August 2021.

He began in style today with a fabulous finish to the net in the early stages and bombed over Limerick’s last point of the game in the 71st minute. In between he had raised another four points from play, his blend of power, strength, poise and accuracy causing Kilkenny huge problems. A return of 1-5 is another addition to Hegarty’s impressive All-Ireland final collection.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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