Limerick’s heroic defensive display, their impressive run to All-Ireland glory and below-par Galway

1. Limerick end 45-year famine

OF ALL THE sides to start out in the All-Ireland SHC this season, only Dublin and Waterford have endured longer waits than Limerick without the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After five successive defeats on the All-Ireland final stage (1974, 1980, 1994, 1996 and 2007), the Shannonsiders finally ended their wait without the big prize. It’s incredible to think John Kiely has delivered an All-Ireland crown in just his second year in charge.

Limerick’s team was largely made up of their victorious U21 side from 2017. Unlike the three-in-a-row All-Ireland U21 winning teams of the early 2000s, Limerick have managed to follow underage success by harvesting the big prize.

Skipper Declan Hannon and the rest of his team-mates have achieved hero status within their county.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

2. Below-par Galway

Galway boss Micheal Donoghue accepted afterwards that his side were ‘a tad off’ the pace in Croke Park this afternoon. A late surge wasn’t quite enough to deliver back-to-back crowns for the Leinster champions.

Aside from Joe Canning, David Burke, Padraic Mannion and Joseph Cooney, no other Galway players could claim to have won their individual battles. Galway had just 0-9 on the board after a wasteful first-half where they shot 10 wides.

They never really found their groove until the closing stages when they desperately tried to pull the game out of the fire. Of their 25 trips to the All-Ireland final, Galway have finished runners-up on 20 occasions. It was their third defeat at this stage since 2012.

3. Limerick’s awesome defence

The battle of Jonathan Glynn on Mike Casey was built-up as one of the key match-ups in this decider and so it transpired. Despite giving up five inches on Glynn, Casey gave a masterful display and kept the Adrahan forward extremely quiet.

Galway’s diagonal ball into Glynn failed to generate any sort of joy. Casey was content to bat away the deliveries and prevent Glynn from plucking the sliotar from the sky. Either side of Casey, Richie English and Sean Finn also dominated their battles. It must have been hugely frustrating for the Galway defenders to see ball after ball cleared from the Limerick rearguard.

Casey’s 50th-minute withdrawal due to injury was a big reason for Galway’s late surge and they rattled the back of Nickie Quaid’s net twice after the Na Piarsaigh full-back departed the action.

At the far end, the tackling and work-rate of the Limerick forwards was exceptional. They set the tone right from the off and managed to turn over the Galway backs on a number of occasions, including for Tom Morrissey’s goal.

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Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

4. Lower quality than the rest of the summer

After an epic summer of hurling, this All-Ireland final failed to hit the lofty standards set earlier in the championship. That was until Galway came agonisingly close to overturning a nine-point deficit with a stirring late comeback.

There were as many wides as scores in a sloppy opening period with nerves probably a factor. But the nine minutes of stoppage-time at the end of the second-half was just about as exciting as anything we’ve witnessed in 2018.

Galway appeared on a slow march to the unlikeliest of victories after goals from Conor Whelan and Joe Canning which arrived after the regulation 70 minutes. In the end Canning stood over a long-range free from well inside his own half, but it didn’t have the legs.

When Tom Condon cleared, Limerick became the fourth county to lift the All-Ireland in as many seasons. We might not be far off the revolution years of the 1990s.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

5. Limerick’s impressive road to the title

Limerick became the first side to go all the way in the new All-Ireland SHC structure and it capped off a stunning championship where they beat hurling’s traditional ‘Big Three’ of Tipperary, Cork, Kilkenny, in addition to last year’s beaten finalists Waterford and reigning champions Galway.

Their eight-game run to the title is surely one of the most impressive All-Irelands ever won. It’s no coincidence that the county with the deepest panel prevailed in the new system which saw extra games introduced into the provinces in the form of a round-robin format.

Over the coming days the focus will turn to individual honours. Declan Hannon has been installed as the bookies favourite to win Hurler of the Year, while his team-mates Graeme Mulcahy, Aaron Gillane and Cian Lynch are also in with a strong shout. Joe Canning and Padraic Mannion could claim the honours if a Galway man is selected.

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