A game to define an era?

They say that time nor tide waits for no man or woman or child. However, there are moments in life – and not just sporting ones – that appear to make tlme stand still. The likes of the Moon Landing, 9/11, the Omagh bombing or the election of Barack Obama to the White House, you’ll generally always remember where you were when they occurred.

Yes, it is the case, certalnly in this corner anyway, that uncomfortable or upsetting recollections resonate deeper and for longer. Though it’s also true to say that the greatest sporting moments can be timeless in the effect they have on people.

From an Irish perspective, we are blessed that as well as horse racing and boxing and athletics and soccer and rugby, GAA itself has left the sports inclined among us with myriad instances of major significance that left such imprints on us that we are never likely to forget where we were when they occurred. Like, for people of certain vintage, Seamus Darby’s goal for Offaly in 1982, or the same county’s astounding retrieval mission in the hurling final a dozen years later.

Ask anybody from Meath, and July 6th, 1991 will automatically jump off the page. Perhaps likewise in Dublin, but they’d surely have a different perspective on it! It really was a game which defined an era in Gaelic football and this corner can’t help thinking that the forthcoming Munster SHC Final between Limerick and Tipperary could be a similarly seminal affair.

Now, televisual viewers surely had their hunger for entertainment sated on Saturday evening last via the double header on Jones’s Road, but thereafter came the uber delectable seconds via Limerick and Cork in Thurles. When the latter had an exceptional team in the early to mid 2000s, it was one of sport’s great mysteries that such a glittering ensemble didn’t garner even more top prizes as was their haul. One is tempted to have similar feelings about the Rebel County stickmen.

Like eventual victors Clare, those then in the care of Jimmy Barry-Murphy were surprise packets when arriving in the seasonal showpiece in 2013. How exactly they didn’t take the title first time out should be classified as the eighth wonder of the world, but, though they did win the Munster Championship the following year you sense they could and should have won more.

Similar sentiments abide now. There’s no doubting the ability contained within Kieran Kingston’s panel but a large proportion thereof have considerable mileage aboard and, though they could very easily be a huge obstacle for anybody to negotiate, you sense time may not be on their side.

Shane Kingston has become a vital part of his dad’s team

However, chances are at the moment they are still trying to fathom just how they lost out to John Kiely’s side. Simply because for the majority of the contest they were the ones doing all the hurling. Tim O’Mahony, Mark Coleman, Robbie O’Flynn, Shane Kingston and the team’s epicentre Pat Horgan were utterly dominant in their respective positions. Mind you, as was opined in the previous offering in some cases during the white heat of battle it boils down to knowing how to win.

Limerick have acquired more knowhow than most in the department in recent years. It comes from being involved at the coalface of intense competition and it enables you to eek results out of positions that look less unlikely and more impossible. Meath under Sean Boylan were dab hands at it back in the day and with the current outfit from the Treaty City frequenting the business end off affairs for the last few seasons they have acquired the street smarts that go with the territory to do the needful.

Thus enabling the likes of Kyle Hayes, Diarmuid O’Donovan, Cian Lynch, Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey and Seamus Flanagan to begin to hurl quite obviously off instinct. Results have shown in the last few years that their instincts are a bit sharper than the rest. The thing is, though, gut feeling is they will have to remain so if the defence of their crown is to continue.

When Cian Lynch plays well so do Limerick

For at the next hurdle they will be met by those who not only consider themselves the true aristocrats of the game but also, in my view at least, do off-the-cuff instinctive freestyle hurling better than anybody else. I don’t know if there will ever be a movie made about the man, but ‘There’s Something About Liam’ definitely has a ring to it. Especially given the winning influence he seems to have over generations of Tipperary hurlers.

Sheedy, that is. The Portroe clubman certainly appears to have the Midas touch when it comes to getting the best out of what is undoubtedly a gifted group of hurlers. Doing so has been difficult enough at times.

In fact, at half time on Sunday last they appeared to be in serious bother, though trailing by a point, 1-13 to 2-11, Brian Lohan’s side appeared to be in considerably better fettle than their opponents, with Tony Kelly at his imperious best and Ian Galvin also excelling.

However, as is never long about being proven, in top level sport, things can change with a rapidity that would make Usain Bolt look sluggish. So it was when the burgeoning Jason Forde rifled a penalty to the Clare onion bag within seconds of the re-start. The award of the said sanction may have been the greatest farce seen on a GAA field in a long time – and that’s saying something – but the eventual victors could only circumnavigate what lay before them. Which they did with ominous astuteness as Forde, Michael Breen and Seamie Callanan – in particular – gave a glimpse of what they’re capable of when fully ‘at it’ and what Kiely’s crusaders will be up against if they are to continue their dominance.

On the other hand, one couldn’t but admire Brian Lohan’s concession that, though scandalously (my words, not his) applied in this instance, the rule which unjustly undid his team is genuine in its merits. He would, I’m sure, realise that their over-dependence on Tony Kelly wouldn’t bode well for elongating their summer journey by too much. Offsetting such fears, though, should be the comfort that with John Conlon, Ian and Colm Galvin, Cathal Malone and Ryan Taylor in outstanding form and Shane O’Donnell still to return, the Banner boys could still pose serious headaches for plenty of teams yet this term.

In the meantime though, get the comfortable armchair into position, put the beers on ice in the fridge, bust open the big bag of crisps and get ready for another Munster Final cracker!

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