Cork Senior Hurlers provide Limerick with plenty to ponder

Cork resurrect their season; Limerick need to regroup

As Nicky Quaid was about to pass the sliothar to a defensive colleague in the fifth minute of second half injury time, the final whistle went with huge roars of approval from the large Cork travelling support, management and players.

A defining game in their championship season and the Rebels delivered a performance to quieten those who doubted the team after their disappointing home loss to Tipperary last weekend.

Cork’s middle third which was much maligned last week in terms of work rate, game management and defensive tracking were on it from minute one. They harassed, they pressured, they executed the game plan of isolating the inside Limerick full back line to a tee.

Bill Cooper was outstanding in the engine room of Cork’s midfield. The Youghal man was composed with the ball and his game management and organization was immense.

It was an excellent day for the Cork management whose decision to start Aidan Walsh in the half forward line paid huge dividends. The Kanturk talisman was a focal point in the air and his breaking of ball for the likes of Meade and Kearney saw several noteworthy points from play.

The Cork half forward lines consistent quick movement caused Limerick’s much vaunted half back line serious troubles. There was an uneasiness about Limerick’s half back play today; the unit were consistently caught out on the Cork puck out strategy and with no genuine support from their half forward line and midfield, it left massive holes for Alan Cadogan and Pa Horgan to exploit inside.

Cork have resurrected their season on the back of this performance. They will be the first to realize that this performance guarantees nothing in the coming weeks but what it does show is that John Meyler’s charges when on form can beat anyone and significantly have the guile and game smarts to close out a contest. The margin of victory was accurate given the context of the proceedings.

Where now for Limerick? The game was a day to forget for all involved including management who struggled to find answers to Cork’s tactical switches throughout. There was a nervousness to Limerick’s play; regulation passes came unstuck causing additional defensive issues and score concessions.

The middle third was the fulcrum last year for Limerick but they were absent for long periods of this contest. The half back line never set the aerial platform. Hannan was increasingly isolated with Cork’s half forward line movement. Morrissey was pushed too far up the pitch to compete with Aidan Walsh in the air as Richie English faced an unenviable task. Byrnes was often in his full back line looking to receive ball. No team can win a championship based on the struggles of the half back line.

The midfield unit struggled. O’Donovan running game was quickly snuffed out and it affected other parts of his game; his usually high standard of sideline cutting was absent. Cian Lynch fought gallantly with some lung bursting runs but you felt that Lynch decided to take the leadership mantle on and win the game on his own; a glorious goal opportunity spurned in the closing stages when a sharp pass to Dowling was the better option.

The half forward line was sporadic for long periods. Hayes at times won the dirty ball but Hegarty and Tom Morrissey struggled for rhythm and aerial duels today. Downey and Coleman personally were standouts for Cork; they played a superbly astute game plan in the aerial battle and their pace and passing was exceptional.

The inside full forward line was threatening when good early ball came from the Limerick midfield and half back line. Graeme Mulcahy’s goal was razor sharp; good anticipation after a Hannan miscued point reached the Kilmallock man. His goal was emphatic; there was nothing Anthony Nash could do.

Aaron Gillane is a player I greatly admire but today Cork got under his skin yet again. His red card last year down in Pairc Ui Chaoimh was only going to invite further sledging today and he unfortunately took the bait; engaging with verbals with Cadogan throughout and not providing the full forward platform that Limerick required with his running down the channels. Gillane is better than that.

Peter Casey worked hard but precious little went right for the Na Piarsaigh front man; guilty of several unforced possession losses. It was a day to forget for Limerick.

Limerick’s performance was flat; their performance lacked the bite and drive required in Munster SHC. Limerick’s looked one paced throughout and it will be interesting to see the reaction in the camp ahead of a crucial tussle in two weeks time on the road. The players looked leggy heading into the final quarter; pressure had tolled.

The running game and passing game which has served Limerick so well in the last eighteen months was a non-factor. The work rate and ability to win the 50/50 ball was second best today. The reality check has being issued; it was sent loud and clear in LIT Gaelic Grounds.

For management, it will require cool heads and composure to dissect this flat performance. It is the first day out in the championship; seven weeks since their last competitive game is a factor but the players will know themselves the levels required to compete in this provincial championship.

The team pride themselves on their standards and one would hope that the players and management are honest in their appraisal of today. Lessons need to be learned and quickly. An interesting two weeks beckons. John Kiely looked like a man who was absolutely livid with that display in his post game comments.

One game does not make a team a bad outfit but this was a performance to focus the minds of all associated with Limerick; the euphoria of last year’s championship win has being smashed after today. It is the here and now and failure to produce better performances in the coming weeks will see an early summer exit for the reigning All Ireland Senior Hurling Champions.

For Cork, a day to be proud of. A game which required a performance was delivered and for the squad and management, confidence should be restored to launch another provincial tilt. With Horgan, Harnedy and Cadogan in the forward line sparkling, this level of consistency is the blueprint.

If Cork can deliver this performance until the end of the season, then they will be a tough side to watch. Two teams met today; one team entered the arena with their backs and reputations on the line, that team delivered, that team was Cork!

Intercounty Hurling Hopes for 2019

Championship is back!

And so it begins. The odyssey for the Liam McCarthy, Joe McDonagh, Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher begins in earnest this weekend where we should see epic tussles in all competitions.

Hawkeye Sidekick is in reflective mood ahead of the big throw in and outlines his hopes and dreams for the upcoming championship season.

Media coverage for all!

The start of the Gaelic Football championship was greeted by the media hordes with some indifference. Games were not broadcast to the maximum viewing audience; an opportunity to show case these fixtures to a global audience.

An opportunity spurned by the media who have won televised rights to these games. An opportunity which should be given to other media organizations who are genuinely interested in covering all teams participating in the championship and not just the big games.

The start of this season’s hurling championship sees a tasty Midlands derby in Tullamore tonight where Offaly will face a rejuvenated Laois side in the Joe McDonagh competition.

Hopefully, we will see a match report tomorrow in the national broadsheets for this fixture and other fixtures played this weekend but you might have trouble finding it nestled amongst the articles about the big marquee Munster and Leinster SHC fixtures set this weekend.

Hurling needs as much coverage as possible come championship time and hopefully TG4 or Eir can take on the mantle for competitions such as McDonagh / Ring / Meagher and Rackard with care and respect for these competitions that they deserve!

Wide open provincial races!

Limerick looked superb in the NHL but a loss against Cork next weekend and they are under huge pressure to get even out of Munster SHC let alone the All Ireland series later in the season. The provincial championships in Munster and Leinster look extremely competitive.

Munster SHC looks potent. Waterford at last get some home comforts but whether Walsh Park will suit their fast tempo game is another story. Cork and Tipperary clash and renew old rivalries down in Pairc Ui Chaoimh which hopefully can stand up to the fixture. Clare are the dark horse this season, regrets from last season should spur them on and then you have Limerick who are the side to be shot at this season. Anyone’s guess who the top three will be from this.

Leinster SHC has been in recent times dominated by Galway and Kilkenny but I think there is a growing feeling that either Dublin or Wexford are primed to cause shocks and go deep in the championship.

Kilkenny have a tricky banana skin fixture at home to Dublin this weekend; injuries aplenty to contend with. Can Dublin be defensively solid yet look potent in attack at the same time? Defensively minded formation against Limerick in NHL semi-final was good but the attacking side of the game was neglected.

Wexford need to push on this season, a few years of steady progression from Davy Fitzgerald’s men but the championship performances apart from the Kilkenny win two seasons back have been a mixed bag. Hoping that the likes of McDonald, Ryan, Chin and O’Connor can deliver game winning performances. Munster has provided much excitement in recent years and it is time Leinster SHC delivered in the same vain.

Carlow Rising

The Galway team sheet against Carlow this weekend can be considered in two ways. Galway management looking at options ahead of tougher battles in the championship or giving players who have impressed in training a chance to stake their claim in the jersey. You know what school of thought will be plastered on the Carlow dressing room wall tomorrow!

Carlow arrive in Galway in good form and confidence. Their progression under Colm Bonnar has been exceptional, excellent grassroots structures coupled with Carlow IT’s emergence in Fitzgibbon Cup has propelled the county to new heights.

This is a side who have had an excellent NHL 1B campaign. They drew with Galway, staved off relegation with a road trip win over Offaly. If their discipline can hold, they will match teams for long periods in this championship. Hopefully, Carlow rattle a top side in Leinster SHC and provide more talking points.

Galway have been warned. The team selection if the side do not settle early this weekend has all the hallmarks of an upset waiting to happen. Carlow need to deliver quick ball into Doyle and the inside full forward line and test out Galway early doors.

Defensive Setup hopefully ditched!

Let us hope that teams decide to ditch the defensive orientated setup. It would be great if teams went man for man but I fear that you will see sides stifling the middle third with goal chances a rare commodity. Cork vs. Tipperary personally should be an epic encounter tomorrow; both sides will love to rattle the other in 1-1 situations but this could be exception than the norm this season.

Defensive setup works to only a point. The summer months require more nous and creativity from an attacking sense. Dublin in particular need to provide an answer to that mission statement in the coming weeks.

Top players are back on the pitch soon!

The sight of Eoin Murphy, Joe Canning and the like looking on at the fixtures this weekend due to injury is a massive disappointment. Hopefully all marquee players will feature in the championships sooner than rather. We need the top stars on the pitch, showcasing their talent and the sport of hurling to the viewing public.

Joanne Cantwell

The unenviable task of replacing the legendary Michael Lyster falls to Joanne Cantwell, a journalist I have admired and respected for several years. Hopefully, she can settle into the Sunday Game show role and let the pundits flow with their viewpoints and key match up points.

Let us hope that key flash points and match winning scores are given the time required. It is an exciting time for the Sunday Game show and I have no doubt Joanne will deliver big time!


Munster: Tipperary

Munster Top Three: Tipperary, Clare, Limerick

Leinster: Kilkenny

Leinster Top Three: Kilkenny, Wexford, Galway

Liam McCarthy: Clare

Joe McDonagh: Laois

Christy Ring: Meath

Nicky Rackard: Warwickshire

Lory Meagher: Leitrim

Limerick SHC: Round 5 Review

Na Piarsaigh and Doon advance to the semi-final

The round robin group stage phase of the Limerick SHC is now in the books and we now know who has their ticket to the quarter and semi-finals. An interesting weekend of results. 

Group 1: Na Piarsaigh / Doon into last four

Before this final round of fixtures, Na Piarsaigh were destined to advance to the semi-final round (only for a bizarre set of results). Their performance against Patrickswell today was emphatic at the Gaelic Grounds and it will take an exceptional team to dethrone the Caherdavin club this year. 

Peter Casey’s early goal after a minute set the tone as Shane Dowling, Casey and the Dempsey brothers were to the fore. Patrickswell tried hard but Na Piarsaigh’s precision passing and support running lines were too much at times for an over worked Patrickswell defense.

Aaron Gillane’s late goal put respectability to the scoreboard but ‘Well will know that they need to improve significantly in the quarter final to be a serious threat for the remainder of the championship. The middle third at times was routed which was a surprise considering the personnel on show. 

Na Piarsaigh were in full control and the 1-21 to 1-11 scoreline was the least that they deserved. 

While Adare and Ballybrown drew 3-17 each at Claughaun to consign Ballybrown to Group 2 next season, the stage was set for Kilmallock and Doon to face off with the winner advancing to the semi-final berth. The pregame thoughts were that Kilmallock would edge the contest but Doon have the ability of tearing up the form book and so it proved here. 

Barry Murphy was the fulcrum for Doon today as his opening half 0-6 point haul gave Doon the platform to keep in touch with the South Limerick outfit. In the second half, Doon strode clear with Dean Coleman particularly impressive. Kilmallock were not cohesive in their distribution and their work rate was a clear second to Doon where Richie English was excellent. Doon won 0-17 to 0-10. 

After such an encouraging performance against Na Piarsaigh a couple of weeks ago, Kilmallock have questions to answer. A quarter final fixture to try and restore confidence but this performance was a pale shadow to a a couple of weeks ago. Advantage Na Piarsaigh in this championship race. 

Group 2: Murroe Boher / South Liberties advance

I did not think that Murroe Boher or South Liberties would be caught today but Cappamore nearly ripped the script apart with a late salvo against South Liberties who were glad to hear the final whistle at the death. It looked pretty straightforward for South Liberties in the opening period as Barry Nash and Brian Ryan were keeping the scoreboard operator in regular action. 

However, Cappamore knowing that a loss would consign them to intermediate hurling next season launched a brave last quarter push; reducing the arrears to a point, causing frayed nerves in the Liberties camp. Cappamore are relegated and they will rue their third quarter performance against Knockainey which lost them the game and ultimately their spot in the senior next season. 1-12 to 1-11. 

South Liberties advance to the quarter-finals and their performance today was particularly nervy in the second half; they need to improve considerably for a quarter-final tussle with Patrickswell. A free hit for them in this encounter and hopefully they can bring the work rate and intensity to unsettle the ‘Well to make this fixture competitive. 

Murroe Boher were comfortable in their five point win to Knockainey. The game was put to bed in the opening quarter as the East Limerick side were twelve points up after twelve minutes. Seanie Tobin and Mike Ryan were excellent for Murroe Boher who won (2-16 to 2-11).

The East Limerick will look forward to a free hit against Kilmallock in the quarter final; no pressure on them and their side has an excellent work ethic, well organized and potent attacking inside options. Could they cause an upset?

Ahane and Monaleen in Cappamore on Sunday afternoon was a game which lacked intensity for long periods. The near neighbors were tit for tat throughout. Ahane’s overly relied on Tom Morrissey who scored eight out of Ahane’s ten points in the opening period.

Monaleen won the game late on with a fine score from David Moloney and they just about edged the encounter by a point (1-15 to 0-17); were more solid in key areas with Lyons and LaTouche-Cosgrave providing key cameos. Ahane have struggled in attack this season with their points average (only Cappamore scored less).

For Monaleen and Ahane, it is the end of the road for this year’s championship. Monaleen will rue the draw against Cappamore in the opening round. Ahane were competitive in all games but that lack of attacking cutting edge was missing at key parts. An off-season to see where improvements can be made. 


Na Piarsaigh, Doon 

Quarter Finals:

Patrickswell vs. South Liberties 

Kilmallock vs. Murroe Boher 



Limerick SHC: After Round Four, where do we stand?

An exciting weekend of action in the Limerick SHC and we know four teams who have officially secured their place in the knock out stage of the championship. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action. 

Group 1: Graeme Mulcahy masterclass

Hawkeye Sidekick asked in the preview piece last week who will be main contender to challenge Na Piarsaigh? The answer was emphatic this weekend, it is going to come from Kilmallock who swept aside the challenge of Patrickswell at the Gaelic Grounds. 

A sensational cameo from Graeme Mulcahy the highlight for the South Limerick side as his nine points from play set the platform to defeat a Patrickswell side 1-22 to 1-12. Patrickswell had no answer to the Limerick corner forward movement. The side played direct and reaped the rewards. Patrickswell are still in the hunt but the injury that forced Cian Lynch an early exit from proceedings yesterday could be a damaging blow for their ambitions of contending for a county final berth. 

Adare tried hard but unfortunately felt the wrath of Na Piarsaigh with a ten point defeat which consigns the side to an early championship exit. Na Piarsaigh were rarely troubled in this contest and the goal scored by Adrian Breen was a highlight reel moment. 2-19 scored and the usual suspects came to the party. Na Piarsaigh’s have received their jolt from Kilmallock and the rest of the sides left in the championship beware. 

In the other game in the group, Doon managed to hold off a dogged Ballybrown challenge. 1-12 to 0-9 was a nervy affair at times; several poor wides from both sides during the hour. Doon’s county stars stood out in the second half and their composure was key to victory at the death.

Doon move into third place in the standings and confirms that Na Piarsaigh, Kilmallock, Doon and Patrickswell advance to the knock out phase. The last round of games will confirm the top two from the group who will advance to the semi-final but Na Piarsaigh (look home and hosed) and Kilmallock if they do not suffer a heavy loss in their last game should be the top two. 

Group 2: Advantage Murroe / Boher and South Liberties 

This group is evenly poised but it is very much advantage to Murroe / Boher and South Liberties after key wins over closest rivals Monaleen and Ahane respectively. 

Murroe / Boher again came up at the right side of the result against Monaleen who had only two scorers during the sixty minutes. Ross Kennedy struck the vital in the opening period as the East Limerick side went in at the break 1-9 to 0-6 up. 

Monaleen’s performance improved on the restart and 
Mark O’Dwyer with 0-12 (10 frees) and Luke Murphy with five points from play setup a titanic finish but experience from Seanie Tobin down the stretch saw Murroe / Boher home. 

South Liberties bounced back from a disappointing loss to Monaleen in the previous round to beat Ahane 1-15 to 0-15 at Cappamore. South Liberties were in charge in the opening period; dominant middle third display resulting in a 0-10 to 0-5 with Brian Ryan and Barry Nash prominent. 

Ahane stormed back into the contest in third quarter; inspired by the Morrissey brothers. Tom Morrissey at the end was sensational, scoring three consecutive points to give Ahane the lead heading into injury time but South Liberties’ response was emphatic. 1-1 in injury time sufficient to secure the victory.

Knockainey secured their first win of the SHC with a nail biting one point win over Cappamore who were 3-4 to 0-7 ahead at half time. Padraic Barron the hero for the South Limerick side scoring 1-13; his composure down the stretch enough to hold off a late charge from Cappamore who will rue an indifferent second half start. 

For Ahane and Monaleen, it is winner take all on Thursday night with the hope that either Murroe/Boher or South Liberties slip up in their games against bottom two Knockainey and Cappamore respectively. I cannot see either top two teams in the group slipping up. Ahane and Monaleen making their exits from the championship. 

Even at this early stage of the championship, you cannot look past Na Piarsaigh or Kilmallock right now. They are the two form teams entering into the knockout stages; the only concern would be the layoff if they get to the semi-final while their prospective opposition are battle hardened further with a quarter final tussle. 

Limerick Senior Hurling Championship: Round 4 Preview

The penultimate group fixtures are upon us this weekend. A couple of standout encounters in both Group A and B. Hawkeye Sidekick tries to do a bit better on his predictions after last weekend. 

Group A: Crunch time for Adare

Adare are in must win territory. After their draw against Doon last weekend, they are now faced with the prospect of facing a Na Piarsaigh side who survived a big scare against Kilmallock to secure a share of the spoils. With Na Piarsaigh on high alert, Adare could see a Na Piarsaigh backlash and with Shane Dowling in superb form last weekend; this is a fixture that I do not see Adare winning given their scoring threat. Forty-nine points in three games is not an average that will be threaten Na Piarsaigh who should win this game with a bit to spare (six points spread). 

The key fixture in this group is the meeting of Kilmallock and Patrickswell. A key fixture to determine who from the chasing pack will be the chief competition to Na Piarsaigh this year. Kilmallock will rue the closing exchanges of last weekend’s draw with Na Piarsaigh; a little more composure would have secured victory and they face a Patrickswell side who should be fresher after a routine victory over Ballybrown last weekend. There is not much between either side; going to sit on the fence and call another draw which would mean that Na Piarsaigh will top the group. 

Ballybrown after defeat to Patrickswell last weekend look consigned to an early championship exit. A promising opening period against their local rivals ebbed away and Patrickswell’s key players came to the party in the third quarter to win the contest. Doon need to get their season back on track and their performance against Adare was a mixed bag. The ability in the squad is there but the level of performance is not but this weekend should see the East Limerick side aided by O’Donovan, English, Ryan and Murphy to win by around four or five points. 

Group B: Monaleen and Murroe Boher key fixture

The key fixture in this group is the meeting of Monaleen and Murroe Boher; the top two in the group face off and whoever is victorious will have pretty close to a quarter final berth. Monaleen had a keynote six points win over South Liberties last weekend. Murroe Boher beat a most disappointing Cappamore side and the lack of test should be an issue this weekend. A key fixture for both rivals; was very impressed by Monaleen last weekend and with LaTouche-Cosgrave playing well, this is a fixture which the City side should start as favorites. A close one to two point win for Monaleen. 

Ahane and South Liberties play in another key group tussle at Cappamore. Let us hope that both sides have linesmen for the fixture given the lack of officials at the Ahane game last week against Knockainey. South Liberties started last weekend top of the table but their performance against Monaleen lacked bite from the first whistle. They need to regroup and respond this weekend; otherwise, their season is over. Ahane overcame Knockainey, a good third quarter providing the platform for victory as the East Limerick side won by six points. Ahane’s scoring threat is still a concern (44 points over three games) but defensively have being tight to date and that should secure another win here as South Liberties’ inconsistent performances as of date are set to continue. Ahane by three points. 

The last fixture in the group is the fixture of Cappamore and Knockainey. Both sides need a win to boost morale. Cappamore last weekend were well off the pace; struggled all over the pitch with Murroe Boher not seriously threatened. Knockainey had good opening period moments against Ahane, only trailed by a point but Ahane pulled away in the third quarter; the work rate from Knockainey was there until the final whistle. Last week, I would have tipped Cappamore to the hilt but seeing their performance against Murroe Boher, going to edge this encounter to Knockainey. 


Group A: Na Piarsaigh, Doon with a draw between Kilmallock / Well

Group B: Monaleen, Ahane and Knockainey

Take a bow Dublin!

Four in a row. The elusive five in a row is nearly in reach for Dublin’s senior footballers. Credit to Tyrone yesterday, they threw everything at Dublin and into the contest but once Paul Mannion slotted home an emphatic penalty in the opening period, this fixture had taken flight and predictable course. Hawkeye Sidekick pays tribute to this side who look destined to be considered the best Gaelic Football side ever if they win Sam Maguire next season! 

The record of Dublin under Jim Gavin is extraordinary. One championship loss since 2013 out of twenty-eight fixtures managed.

Another clean sweep of the key football titles this season. NFL triumph over Galway then saw a routine Leinster SFC success and any doubters will have being quietened by the performances in the Super Eights. Their road trip win in Omagh was one of the keynote performances this season; a potential banana skin fixture dealt with in efficient fashion.

Gavin’s backroom staff is exceptional; their scouting network identifying the next Dublin stars (when to be brought in and contribute) is working superbly well right now and the team who look at upcoming opposition have being on point throughout consistently.

Jim Gavin is an incredible manager and his resume with Dublin footballers is unparalleled in the modern era.

This four in row side has seen evolution in the starting lineup. The likes of Scully, Howard, Murchan emerged this season. Con O’Callaghan for his age has two All Ireland Senior football titles to his name; a testament to Jim Gavin and management’s confidence in the youth emerging from the setup. When you consider the likes of Bernard Brogan and Paul Flynn were not part of the subs bench, you start to see the strength in depth in this panel. 

The playing squad contains massive leadership. Stephen Cluxton in goal has revolutionized the position; his distribution from the restarts is his trademark and only Rory Beggan can consider himself to be on a par with the Dublin netminder this season. 

Pundits lazily pointed at the full back line as an area of weakness. Nope. The full back line has evolved over time. Different players evolving into different roles. McMahon, Cooper, Fitzsimons, Murchan have all impressed this season and when you consider the nous and game reading of Cian O’Sullivan in front of the full back line, the goal threat of opposition teams have being quickly nullified. 

The half back line has provided stellar support defensively as well as attacking options. McCafferey and Small started yesterday but is the versatility in the squad that the likes of Howard could slot into the wing back position to provide defensive stability if required. McCafferey’s pace and ability to break opposition defenses with his searing runs have being exceptional this season. 

The midfield of Brian Fenton (yet to lose a championship game) and James McCarthy who yet again shows player versatility moving to the middle of the park from the half back line. Their ability to defend while chipping in with several scores from play was evident throughout the year, the same again yesterday and Tyrone had no answer for the midfield duo when Dublin exploded into action in the second quarter on. 

Diarmuid Connolly went to Boston for the summer. A massive loss but Dublin’s forward line unit filled the void well. Ciaran Kilkenny elevated his game to the next level; his game management, his ability to distribute and look to burst past his opponent were hallmarks this season. Niall Scully’s runs from deep saw key goals in the championship including yesterday. 

Every forward on the Dublin side has the composure and ability to do the right thing. The inside full forward line yesterday was full of life; the movement of O’Callaghan and Mannion was at times incredible. Dean Rock has being superb in these past two seasons both from play and placed balls. When you consider the likes of Andrews, McManamon in reserve; enough said.

There is no weak link in this Dublin side. Their ability to adapt to the opposition game plan a key trait. Damien Comer for Galway had an encouraging opening quarter in the All Ireland Semi-Final (1-1 scored) but Dublin then cut out the supply and defensively switched deeper to counteract the long ball in. Colm Cavanagh was moved into full forward yesterday; a penalty ensued but the next high ball in was emphatically caught by Howard. 

A team for the ages. Mayo will be back next season. Kerry if they can address the clear defensive and middle third issues may threaten. Galway, Tyrone, Donegal and Monaghan will look for another opportunity to challenge Dublin but do any of these sides have all the parts and belief to get past Dublin?

Serious doubts right now unless Dublin suffer an injury crisis but even then, squad depth is so strong and who is to say that more underage talent will be introduced to Jim Gavin’s side next season. A scary thought! The standard that all other inter-county football teams have to aspire to and surpass. Daunting. Congratulations Dublin!

Limerick Senior Hurling Championship: Round 3 Preview

All the Liam McCarthy celebrations in Limerick will need to be put on hold for the next few weeks as the club championship takes center stage. The third round of Limerick SHC resumes tomorrow night. Hawkeye Sidekick will look to predict the outcomes. 

Group 1: Top Two Lock Horns

Local neighbors Patrickswell and Ballybrown will kick this group action off, always interesting games to say the least when these two get together. Ballybrown are playing knockout hurling; need a result here to have any chance of reaching at least a quarter final berth. Patrickswell have being inconsistent so far; a good win over Adare in round two then saw a three point reversal to Doon in round two.

Two teams who need to win to gain momentum for the rest of the championship. For Ballybrown to win, Alan O’Connor will need to be on point in open play and placed balls. The attacking threat of Patrickswell led by Gillane, Lynch should be sufficient to see Well home in this one, would not be surprised if a couple of red cards are issued. Well to quell the early Ballybrown storm and win by five points.

Adare like Ballybrown have lost their first two rounds against Patrickswell and Kilmallock by a combined twenty-three points. The points difference is not on Adare’s side and could be critical come the end of the group phase but they need to play significantly better to beat a Doon side who on their day is a match for anyone.

The East Limerick side will be buoyed by their All Ireland winners and plenty will be expected of Pat Ryan and Barry Murphy to provide keynote performances to alert Limerick management. Adare will depend on Declan Hannon and John Fitzgibbon to provide a platform; a lack of goal threat might be fatal here for Adare. Doon for me by four points.

Kilmallock and Na Piarsaigh is the mouth watering fixture of this championship round. Both come into this contest with 100% records and one will probably go at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night. So many intriguing match-ups; the midfield battle looks one to watch. Hanley vs. O’Donoghue will be fascinating.

The Na Piarsaigh juggernaut provided that they are rested and ready to go look the form side again this season. No genuine weak links and with the likes of Shane Dowling, Peter Casey keen to show their worth to county management, Kilmallock are going to have knuckle down and defend well throughout.

Close encounter as Kilmallock’s inside full forward line will take handling. Graeme Mulcahy in particular will pose a serious threat. Despite good moments from the South Limerick side, Na Piarsaigh hold the aces down the stretch and a potential two point win for the City side.

Group 2: All to play for

The second group in this competition has seen a variation in results. Four East Limerick teams coupled with Monaleen and Knockainey has seen only South Liberties as the only team to retain their 100% record. 

Ahane and Knockainey will lock horns in Cappamore on Friday night. Tricky game to call; long layoff for both sides in the championship and Knockainey did beat Ahane last season in the championship. 

Both sides have indifferent form heading into this tussle. Ahane’s opening round win against Cappamore was hard work and then disciplinary issues saw Ahane succumb to Murroe Boher narrowly.

The Ahane side has a nice mix of youth and experience. The Morrissey brothers will look to create a platform and think they have sufficient scoring quality to get over the line but it will be far from a classic. Ahane’s scoring return needs to improve or else Knockainey will scent another win over the East Limerick side. 

Murroe Boher and Cappamore face off in Caherconlish. A local derby game and one where form goes out the window. Both sides will look to push on with victory here. Murroe Boher started with a one point loss to South Liberties but then beat Ahane by a similar margin. 

Cappamore have shown organization and fight in their first two games. They were unlucky not to take a share of the spoils from Ahane in round one and then drew against Monaleen in their second outing. I would not be surprised if another draw was in the offing; two closely matched sides. 

South Liberties can take a massive step towards the quarter finals if they can beat Monaleen. South Liberties will look to Barry Nash to set the attacking platform. Monaleen have being out of sorts in recent rounds. Their opening round win over Knockainey was unconvincing and then had to be content with a share of the spoils over Cappamore. 

South Liberties for me are a better side than the two sides faced by Monaleen so far; a lot will depend on which side has built momentum in training in recent weeks. This is a dangerous fixture for South Liberties; edge it to the East Limerick side but it should be closer than some pundits may think given the long layoff between rounds two and three of this championship. 

Hawkeye Sidekick Senior Hurling Team XV

After the epic homecoming in Limerick last night, it is now time to reflect on the Senior Hurling Championship and identify the players who impressed most during the year. Hawkeye Sidekick reveals his team of the year. 

Goalkeeper: Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny)

There were some incredible standout performance moments this season. Anthony Nash (Cork) provided excellent cameos enroute to a Munster SHC title yet again. Nicky Quaid (Limerick) and that save from Seamus Harnedy in the All Ireland Hurling Semi-Final is a highlight reel moment. However, the performance alone against Limerick in the All Ireland Quarter Final is quite the most complete goalkeeping performance this season. Eoin Murphy was defiant. Eoin Murphy was superb. Eoin Murphy shot stopping masterclass at different parts of the season. 

Corner Back: Sean Finn (Limerick)

Easy decision on this position. Sean Finn was a consistent defensive standout for Limerick all year. His positioning, man marking and distribution from the back provided a key platform from which Limerick flourished. 

Full Back: Padraig Walsh (Kilkenny)

Daithi Burke is the obvious pick here but I want to change up the team selection this season. Padraig Walsh for his versatility, his ability to do whatever it took for his team gets my nod here. Walsh was played out of position but he provided solidity in a position which has proved tough to fill. Others to come into the reckoning along with Daithi Burke (who will get the All Star) as well as David McInerney (Clare) and Mike Casey (Limerick). 

Corner Back:  Sean O’Donoghue (Cork)

Richie English is probably the standout for the position when it comes to the All Star but I thought Sean O’Donoghue did not put a foot wrong for Cork this season; a player whose man marking ability was a valuable asset to his side leading to the Munster SHC crown. Other players to feature were Richie English (Limerick), Noel Connors (Waterford), Jack Browne (Clare). 

Wing Back: Padraic Mannion (Galway) 

Consistent performer for Galway this season. His ability to score from long range either in placed balls or open play was seen at various stages during the season. Galway relied on Mannion heavily throughout the season and the player should be a dead cert for HOTY honors in a couple of weeks. Galway may have lost the All Ireland final but Padraic Mannion did not let the side down. 

Half Back: Declan Hannan (Limerick) 

Hannan was a consistent performer for Limerick this season; filling the half back slot providing defensive nous in aerial exchanges and providing passing and scoring threat attacking wise. His cameo in the All Ireland Hurling final showcased his vast skill set and it will be remembered by the pundits picking the All Star awards this season. Other contenders include Conor Cleary (Clare), Gearoid McInerney (Galway before injury). 

Wing Back: Diarmuid Byrnes  (Limerick) 

Yet another consistent Limerick half back performer; his ability to score from long range either with placed balls or in open play was instrumental at various stages during the season. His distribution to midfield and attacking colleagues stood out as well. The Patrickswell player had a tremendous year with the county. Pivotal opening score on the restart last Sunday set the tone for Limerick in the third quarter. If Limerick lost on Sunday, then the accolade would have gone to Mark Coleman (Cork) who had yet another strong year at wing back. 

Midfield: Cian Lynch (Limerick) 

The mercurial playmaking midfielder had a superb year; his ability with the ball, his first touch, his vision to identify colleagues running into space was exceptional. His ability to run from deep seen to full effect with his All Ireland Hurling Semi-Final goal against Cork, realized that an opportunity was on and latched onto a superb pass from Flanagan to hit a vital goal. Lynch’s ability to win the ball seen in his opening score against Galway, fearless approach and won the ball among several Galway players. Well deserved accolade.

Midfield: Darragh Fitzgibbon (Cork)

The guy is an incredible hurler; pace and skill set to burn opposition. His pace and power seen to full effect during the Munster SHC campaign as he chipped in with several fine scores from play. Fitzgibbon’s running game for Cork was an integral part to everything that was good with Cork this season and with an impending U21 All Ireland final coming up, it will be additional highlight reel stuff for the Charleville star. Darragh O’Donovan (Limerick), David Burke (Galway), Tony Kelly / Colm Galvin (Clare) were superb too. Tough unit to pick. 

Wing Forward: TJ Reid (Kilkenny)

How anyone could leave this player off the All Star team is unthinkable? Kilkenny this season owe a massive gratitude to Reid in his high level of performance and scoring prowess. His performances baled out Kilkenny from certain defeat to Dublin and was instrumental in the NHL final win over Tipperary. Reid was deadly accurate with placed balls and chipped in with vital scores from play throughout the season. He has to be included in the team of the year. 

Half Forward: Joe Canning (Galway)

When Galway were struggling for someone to provide the inspiration, it was left yet again to Joe Canning to produce it. His final quarter performance against Limerick was sublime; his decision making, his accuracy from play to provide a lifeline for Galway in injury time was inspirational. Canning had an excellent season; prominent throughout the championship and his All Ireland Series performances against Clare were pivotal in Galway advancing to the final. 

Wing Forward: Peter Duggan (Clare)

Standout year for the Clooney-Quin player. His performances throughout the NHL season was a warning to opponents on the player’s form and he continued to be a key scoring asset for Clare in the championship. His free taking on point and his ability to score goals and points from open play were sublime. Heavy scoring rates means that you cannot exclude the player from this side of the year. Jack O’Connor (Wexford) and Cathal Mannion (Galway) were prominent too this season along with Tom Morrissey (Limerick). Tough spot to pick. 

Corner Forward: Seamus Harnedy (Cork)

Standout perfomer for Cork’s forward line this season. When the chips were down, Harnedy delivered. I think of his cameo against Waterford in the final quarter, pulled Cork clear in a tricky encounter. His performance against Clare was excellent in the Munster SHC final and could not do anymore in the epic All Ireland Semi-Final tussle with Limerick. His shot at the death which produced Nicky Quaid’s standout moment would have secured Cork’s passage to the All Ireland final. Fine margins but given his overall scoring contribution this season, another player who cannot be left out. John McGrath (Tipperary) was also prominent this season, shooting accuracy sublime. 

Full Forward: John Conlon (Clare)

Superb year for the Clonlara club man as he was energized moving into the full forward role; caused massive issues for opposition full backs throughout and his scoring return in the NHL and SHC was superb. His movement, power allowed the player to score when given the right distribution. His battle with Daithi Burke in the All Ireland Semi-Final was sensational. 

Corner Forward: Aaron Gillane (Limerick)

If anyone has followed this blog for any extended period of time, I was incredibly critical of Limerick management for excluding Gillane last season from the panel. Gillane is a such a threat in open play, big fan. Gillane’s movement and threat inside was excellent throughout the season. People will point at the goal chances missed but the fact that he created those chances is evidence of his sensational movement and hurling nous. A player who will elevate his game to the next level next year, the Patrickswell player was a standout for Limerick. His free taking was solid in the All Ireland series. Shane O’Donnell (Clare), Pa Horgan (Cork), Conor Whelan (Galway) were prominent too.

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?

In March 1993, Limerick band The Cranberries released their debut album ‘Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?’. Among the several standout tracks in the album was ‘Dreams’, a song which is about feeling in love for the first time. 

The song has started to gain momentum and air play during the Limerick All Ireland Series run this year; a song now poignant due to the untimely passing of the legend that was, that is and always will be Dolores O’Riordan.

The feeling of having the coveted Liam McCarthy Cup back in Limerick after forty-five long years resonates with the song and celebrations in the city and county will go long into the winter. The homecoming party tomorrow will be one for the ages and hopefully we will not have to wait another forty-five years to win Liam McCarthy again. 

Limerick is my county of birth; a county in which I started to play hurling with Ahane, a club stepped in tradition, a club where the names of Mackey, Herbert, Ryan, Power are sacrosanct. Hurling is everything and the morale boost from club or county success flows through the parish always as homes and shops are decked out with messages of support.

I have seen the disappointment too all too often. I will never forget the club bus trip to the ’94 final; the collapse in the final ten minutes against Offaly was hard to take as the bus stopped at various watering holes to get over the shock before landing back at Newgarden GAA grounds at some ungodly hour.

The Limerick All Ireland win today is a triumph for everyone connected to the county; anyone associated with the association who has aided in the development of players from national school to club to county squads.

Limerick success today has being created in no small part by the underage structures established within the county; players identified at a young age and the system allowing for late bloomers to come into the county setup if they impress in underage games. 

Limerick’s win today will give hope to everyone next season in that if you commit to underage structures, commit as a senior squad to train hard and complement that with the best of the best backroom staff possible, anything is possible. The acquisition of Paul Kinnerk and Caroline Currid have being huge; their contribution to this triumph cannot be understated. Winning culture established. 

Limerick have had to look on with envy these last forty-five years with the success enjoyed by near neighbors. Clare, Tipperary, Cork have all basked in All Ireland glory and there have being difficult banter sessions with work colleagues from these counties at work offices in the Mid-West region during this period.

I am still in a state of shock; a state of disbelief that today has finally happened. Limerick have reached the summit; they have won Liam McCarthy. It will probably sink in more as the days go by but tonight, I think of majestic past Limerick players who did not get over the line. I think of Limerick friends in distance lands, Limerick friends unfortunately no longer here to enjoy this moment, some of which departed far too young. A touch emotional as I drove back to Galway tonight when reflecting on these thoughts earlier.

This is a triumph that has broken the inhibition of failure around Limerick hurling circles; broken down the dejection and sadness of past near misses. A triumph that will ignite hurling back throughout the county.

The Cranberries posed the question: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? Limerick Senior Hurling team have responded today. Limerick Senior Hurlers are doing it. Over and out from a proud Limerick man tonight. Roll on the homecoming tomorrow!

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final Thoughts

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. 

Puckout Strategy

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.

Seamus Flanagan

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. 

Galway tension

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. 

Wide Count

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.