The Limerick quest for Liam McCarthy after forty -five years of disappointment and near misses is complete; a thrilling second half injury time where flashbacks of ’94 came back at a rate of knots. Limerick’s one point win to a gallant reigning champions Galway was created due to a number of key game moments. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on these.
If you want to know how this final was won, you just need to see the strategy from the puck outs. Nicky Quaid was quick to distribute to Finn and English where the distribution from the corner backs was confident, locating wing backs and wing forwards roving deep.
Galway on the other hand were devoid of momentum from the quick short puck outs. Tuohey and Hanbury looked to either take their man on and lose possession or hit aimless long high ball which was lapped up by the Limerick back line.
Credit to the Limerick middle third as well; their speed and movement to provide options for Nicky Quaid was a video analysis session for hurling teams looking to improve their puck out retention rates. This was a decisive part of the game.
The Feohanagh-Castlemahon forward has provided an added dimension to the Limerick full forward line. His pace and ability to rove in the middle third winning possession was to the fore after a slow opening quarter.
Flanagan’s work rate was typified in the lead up to the first Limerick goal. 50/50 challenge (Galway will say different) against Padraic Mannion saw the ball arrive at the hurl of Kyle Hayes who then dispatched a sharp pass inside to Graeme Mulcahy and the rest as they say is history.
Flanagan posed different looks to the Galway full back line. Who would pick up the player? Flanagan scored a vital point just on half time and his confidence grow upon the restart looking for ball and bringing colleagues into the game. The forward ran his heart out for the cause and the young player can take pride on his cameo.
Watching the contest at home, I was surprised that RTE had camera footage in the warm up area prior to throw-in. Limerick players seen going through their final prep but there was no footage of Galway. Why not? It was pretty baffling to say the least and the opening period performance saw a Galway side who were slow out of the blocks, tension filled in shot selection as well as Limerick.
The hunted were feeling extreme pressure from the opening whistle as the Limerick mobility and work rate in the middle third was to the fore. The image of McInerney and Tuohey losing possession. The image of McInerney being shunted to the ground by Flanagan was an early momentum booster for Limerick who started to execute their game plan.
Galway’s game plan was unclear. Glynn struck a remote figure in the full forward position. Mike Casey must be applauded for sticking to the task but the ball and positioning of the player far out from the Limerick goal must have music to John Kiely’s and Limerick backroom staff’s eyes.
No clear plan for Conor Whelan as well; distribution inside to the full forward was hard work primarily due to Limerick’s middle third dominance but yet again Galway were taking the wrong shot selection with only Joe Canning and David Burke coming to the fore in the scoring department.
Galway needed to hurt Limerick in the full back line; it only started in the 74th minute, far too late. Galway’s management will need to reflect on the tactics deployed today; struggled to address the Limerick threat and their forward line running lines were far too static. A sign perhaps of a long season and two epic replays to Kilkenny and Clare catching up on the players?
Limerick Goals: Reward for work rate without the sliothar
All three Limerick goals were scored due to lost possession from Galway defensively. The first goal saw Padraic Mannion lose possession after a challenge from Flanagan. The second goal saw Tom Morrissey strip the ball from Gearoid McInerney who was quite struggling with fitness. The third goal will be the most galling for Galway; Tuohey looked at ease with the ball but dwelt too long to hit it allowing Peter Casey to win back possession and setup Dowling to score the decisive third goal.
The goals that Limerick scored were full of work rate, determination and desire to win the ball back. No Limerick forward was static without the ball, constantly looking to support their defense, not giving the Galway defense any opportunity to setup and pick a pass to a midfield or forward line colleague. Galway forward line work rate without the ball were flat. Limerick back line were comfortable with the sliothar and distributing to the midfield and forward line with frequent accuracy.
The end of the contest was exciting but in truth, Limerick made extremely hard work to close out the final. Several poor wides to put the game to bed allowing Galway to have a chance until the last puck of the game. Both sides were guilty of poor wides throughout.
Limerick’s opening period was full of work rate and enthusiasm but the scoreboard perhaps failed to accurately reflect this. Four points up at the break, credit to Limerick with Kyle Hayes hitting the purple patch with some standout scores. Hayes was ably assisted by Mulcahy and Byrnes with key scores.
Galway struggled for tempo upfront and several Galway forwards were under pressure with their shot selection; a couple of unusual shot selections from marquee Galway forwards during the third quarter in particular to put pressure on Limerick. Galway’s options of Niall Burke and Jason Flynn were thrown early; an indication of how the forward line units were performing.
The wide count for each side was too big; in other years, this would not have being good enough to win an All Ireland title.
Galway Squad Depth Exploited
Galway’s squad contains several standout players from the bench but for whatever reason, their confidence and performance levels have not convinced management to give significant game time. Hanbury, McInerney were not fully fit; their movement on the pitch at times was exposed particularly when Limerick moved with pace.
The departure of James Skehill from Galway goal saw Fergus Flannery come into the goals for his debut bow; a question mark why the backup keeper did not get game time in the Leinster SHC Round Robin particularly against Dublin?
Galway depended on Padraic Mannion, Joe Canning and David Burke to get over the line again today. It did not work and O’Donoghue and management need to look at the squad depth coming off the bench; Limerick had key cameos today while Galway did not. Reflect and regroup.
Man of the Match
Limerick had several standout cameos. Finn and English in the corner back positions were excellent throughout. Mike Casey executed his game plan to negate Glynn to a tee. The half back to a man were superb. Byrnes chipped in with a couple of keynote scores. Hannan led from the front in that opening half with two sensational long range scores. Dan Morrissey was solid throughout with quality distribution.
Cian Lynch and Darragh O’Donovan ran the legs off David Burke and Johnny Coen who was hauled off in the third quarter. Lynch’s possession win amongst several Galway players was a key momentum shift as the Patrickswell player scored a superb point from it. O’Donovan work rate around the pitch on point.
The forward line unit worked well; good movement and distribution creating numerous scoring opportunities. Gillane was always a danger inside. Flanagan roved and caused Galway defensive issues. Graeme Mulcahy was the leader of the inside line; key scores and calmed down colleagues when required.
The half forward line provided key Limerick cameos. Gearoid Hegarty won possession at regular intervals; selfless in distribution. Tom Morrissey chipped in yet more vital scores for his county; quality goal and then the teenager Kyle Hayes arrived to the hurling stage; an emphatic performance with several long range scores which created the buffer that Limerick required in the closing stages. Hayes for man of the match.
Galway had heroic performances from Daithi Burke, David Burke, Padraic Mannion and Joe Canning but the accolade has to go to Limerick tonight.