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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 29 January, 2020

Munster senior win the latest title to add to honours list of dominant Limerick group

A 12-point win delivered more silverware for Limerick yesterday.

Limerick players celebrating yesterday's victory.
Limerick players celebrating yesterday's victory.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

WHEN LIMERICK WON the Munster final in 2013, it was a day of deliverance at the Gaelic Grounds.

For a county starved of senior hurling success, that breakthrough was long awaited and much appreciated. The post-match scenes reflected the store they placed in overturning Cork, their team populated by long-serving members had been frustrated on several occasions and their supporters had waited 17 years for something to shout about in Munster.

Yesterday brought about another pitch invasion in Limerick’s home arena. It was largely unchartered territory for this squad at senior level. Only Nickie Quaid, Declan Hannon, Graeme Mulcahy and Shane Dowling sampled gametime in the 2019 decider and the 2013 instalment. Tom Condon, on the bench yesterday, was another survivor from six years ago.

Otherwise this was a fresh crop on the Munster senior podium. Yet while it may have been only the county’s second provincial title in 23 years, it had the feel more of a group of players ticking another box on their journey rather than reaching joyous new heights.

Clearly part of that is due to their towering achievement in last August’s All-Ireland final but it also stems from the winning habit ingrained in the current Limerick squad.

For a core of their panel, this served as the completion of a set of Munster medals. Minor wins in 2013 and 2014, U21 successes in 2015 and 2017, and now the senior accolade in 2019.

From the team that dismantled Tipperary, there were three players who have started in all five of those provincial victories – Sean Finn, Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey.

Mike Casey, Richie English and Peter Casey also have the full set of Munster honours now along with Darragh O’Donovan, Barry Nash, Colin Ryan and Pat Ryan from yesterday’s substitute list.

Diarmaid Byrnes and Gearoid Hegarty were part of the 2015 success that culminated in All-Ireland U21 glory, Kyle Hayes and Aaron Gillane sharing in the good times at that level in 2017. Go back further to 2011 and you have Shane Dowling, Declan Hannon and Graeme Mulcahy all still involved from an epic Munster final win in that grade.

Switch away from the county scene and the Na Piarsaigh contingent of the Casey brothers, William O’Donoghue and Dowling have swept the boards at club level with their greatest moment occurring on St Patrick’s Day in 2016. The younger Casey wound up with the man-of-the-match award yesterday and given his club heroics, he has the leading honours list in the current squad.

The only omission for this bunch of Limerick hurlers is an All-Ireland minor medal with a semi-final loss in 2013, along with final reversals in 2014 and 2016, the setbacks suffered by different players. 

It was natural to speculate what direction Limerick would travel in after their landmark 2018 success. 

And yet their output since then has done nothing to suggest that they have slipped back. They hit full speed early in the campaign to collect the league title and even if they have shipped defeats in the Munster round-robin, when the demands and stakes are naturally spiked, Limerick’s response on each occasion has been to hit back with an emphatic victory.

They coped with the early loss to Cork by walloping Waterford and Clare by 20 and 18 points respectively. Then a four-point loss a fortnight ago to Tipperary was transformed into a 12-point win when the teams renewed acquaintances in a final.

John Kiely has now overseen his charges in three different deciders in the space of ten months with silverware collected on each occasion. They are now just two wins away from the retention of the biggest prize in hurling.

For Cork, Westmeath, Dublin and Laois in action this weekend, for Tipperary and Kilkenny lying in wait at the quarter-final stage, and also for Wexford, fresh from provincial glory themselves, the manner of Limerick’s victory reinforced their position at the head of the pack.

Their desire to succeed appears relentless and the champions remain the target that every other contender must seek to take down.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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