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True sporting heroicism on display for proud nation

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Ireland’s Johnny Sexton reacts following his team’s win over New Zealand at the weekend. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP

Ireland’s Johnny Sexton reacts following his team’s win over New Zealand at the weekend. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP

Ireland’s Johnny Sexton reacts following his team’s win over New Zealand at the weekend. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP

Normally Peter O’Mahony wears an impenetrable thousand-yard stare. But a fixed vision of the future seemed to glow on the battle-worn countenance in the aftermath of Ireland’s history-making win in Wellington.

What did it mean to conquer the unconquerable, he was asked. From now on, young players may no longer have to travel to New Zealand with an expectation of defeat, came the reply.

Johnny Sexton’s team’s incredible second win in New Zealand inside eight days was an epic display of courage and character.

Yet Sexton wasn’t having any of it, when thoughts drifted towards next year’s Rugby World Cup in France. Drawing on the wisdom of his 37 years, the Ireland skipper refused to rush the fences. We’ll just savour the victory for now, he counselled.

Even the New Zealand media agreed, Ireland are playing like the team the All Blacks used to be.

Compliments don’t come any bigger in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

If former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt had shown we could beat the All Blacks on a good day, Andy Farrell made plain the cloak of invincibility can be removed on any day – if you want it enough and give it all you have, along with all you hope to have.

Both Limerick and Kilkenny wanted it desperately, when the sun-soaked weekend of sensational sport continued at Croke Park.

But it was Limerick that made it three in-a-row in this scintillating All-Ireland final.

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Excitement levels were as high as the temperatures.

If Covid kept the cork in the bottle in celebrating their last two wins, there was no containing the exuberance of the Treaty men.

The Cats used all nine lives to keep within touching distance of the Liam MacCarthy Cup, right up to the dying moments. They’ll be back.

The teams first went up against each other in an All-Ireland final in 1897; the last time they met was in 2007. In their last nine encounters Kilkenny won five, Limerick four.

But the 1911 result – which went to Kilkenny – was contentious. It was known as the “non-All-Ireland final”, with the original match being called off due to bad weather.

But Limerick had felt it was fit to play and took to the field. When the match was rescheduled at another venue, they refused to play.

Kilkenny got the win when a substitute contest took place. The Munster Council had nominated Tipperary to play Kilkenny, with the latter triumphant.

A chunk of our sun-drenched sporting weekend also belonged to the women’s teams, where the intensity is also growing. Meath withstood a huge Donegal challenge to win a final place against Kerry, who were just too strong for Mayo.

That Meath-Kerry women’s final is in Croke Park on Sunday week and promises to be a real thriller.

As the curtain comes down on our hurling season, one couldn’t have asked for a better finale. A fitting celebration of skill and finesse, so it’s our privilege to salute Limerick as champions.


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