Grimes, Joe Mc, Pairc Na nGaeil. Synonymous with Limerick. Two legends and an iconic sporting arena. All immortalised in a uniquely Irish sporting way. Facilitating the type of cross over which cements the special place sport commands in Irish life.
Namely, having a horse named in their honour by J. P. McManus. There are many famous sportspeople, landmarks, places and other facets of life have got that treatment over the years. Champ (After A. P. McCoy), Glenstall Abbey, Rae’s Creek (Golf hole at Augusta National) Stand Up And Fight (Munster Rugby anthem) and many more.
What I’m not sure off hand is whether of the great Limerick hurling team of the 1990s were bestowed with similar acclaim. Whether they were or not, it would seem a nailed on certainty that some of the current crop surely will. In my previous installment, reference was made to the changing pecking order in hurling. Specific mention was given to the fact that Limerick have slipped the field by a few furlongs.
A major part of being successful in any sport is knowing How to win. The best competitors have it and you know they have it without even looking for it. It’s knowing when, and how, to make interventions when needed. Often done by players being proactive and changing things around on the field themselves without needing to await direction.
A classic example of same was, in fact, Galway’s attack in last Sunday’s match. Actually it has long been a go-to of the men from the west. Primarily as a means of putting Joe Canning wherever he was needed most. Having said that, in more recent times, positional rotation has been a matter of choice rather than necessity.
In the early stages of last Sunday’s encounter it was clear Galway’s evolving rotational policy certainly had Limerick flummoxed. However, the composure and nous that comes with being a successful team on the road for a while gradually began to tell to Limerick’s advantage and by half time John Kiely’s side had turned a seven point deficit into a cushion of three (0-15 to 0-12) by the change of the ends.
Another facet of Limerick’s makeup which currently sets them apart from the rest is their adaptability. Witness Dan Morrissey being re-routed to full back to deputise for the injured Mike Casey. Which in itself necessitated the insertion of Kyle Hayes to the half back line. For a lot of teams, to remove the fulcrum of their attack – even to another sector of the field – would spell doom.
Yet, John Kiely’s Limerick, almost mechanically, just re-configurated, deploying William O’Donoghue in midfield, thus freeing up Cian Lynch to operate from centre forward. Now, this corner would get very hard to differentiate between Hayes and Lynch in terms of who my favourite player on the Treaty County team. The latter gets the verdict by the shortest of short heads. Simply because, in a hurling context, the Patrickswell youngster is the nearest to Trevor Giles the one seeing has encountered. He’s skillful, athletic and plays with the intelligence and influence of a quarter back in American Football.
Apart from the fact that Limerick won the game, the other points of note from it revolved around the valiant, vanquished Galway team. Firstly their feat in registering five points from sideline cuts – four by the incomparable Joe Canning and the other from substitute Fintan Burke. The other major talking point regarding the match, unfortunately, pertained to the serious injury sustained by Canning after a nauseating clash of heads with one of his own teammates.
Galway could hardly be been castigated had they folded having lost their talisman. However, like any truly great team, they dug in and battled, led principally by Conor Whelan, until it was eventually the strength and impact of the Limerick bench – in the guise of David Reidy (in particular) and Pat Ryan and Peter Casey and Aidan Breen – which saw them deservedly over the line and so set up a Christmas appetiser to look forward to on December 20th.