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Limerick lessons for Gilroy's men

This year's Munster football final produced real drama as Limerick came up just short yet again. It was a very enjoyable game, played in the right spirit most of the time, and was in the balance with just three minutes left on the clock.

At that stage, the sides were level, but so much had happened in the previous 67 minutes that it was perhaps a little surprising that there was nothing in it.

Kerry, however, got over the line thanks to their experience, self-belief and a few big match winners who can always produce the goods just when needed most.

Colm Cooper kicked his team in front and Tomás ó Sé kicked another to break Limerick hearts -- but ó Sé was very lucky to have still been on the field after at least three very dangerous tackles in the opening half.

Limerick will look back and rue some of the chances they missed, especially in the first half when they had the opportunities to put some real space between themselves and their illustrious opponents but on too many occasions they kicked under pressure when it would have been wiser to work the ball closer.



STRONG

There was a very strong breeze in Fitzgerald Stadium and certainly Limerick took advantage early in the game as they powered into a four-point lead inside the opening six minutes. John Galvin, who was terrific all day, began proceedings with a great solo effort straight from the throw-in.

How Dublin could do with a guy like Galvin at midfield. Strong and athletic, he had one of his best games in the green jersey despite the fact that he is now in his thirties. There are very few midfielders who could live with him and it would be a great pity if we don't see him run out in Croke Park later in the year.

Galvin, of course, wasn't the only outstanding Limerick player yesterday. Ger Collins kicked the next three points after the midfielder's opening score and he gave Tom O'Sullivan a torrid afternoon until the Kerryman was hauled ashore in the last 10 minutes.

It took Kerry time to settle into the game and it was Cooper and ó Sé who got the ball rolling with two great scores, but Limerick responded with a point from James O'Donovan after some great work from Galvin.

It was nip and tuck from then on until the end of the half with both teams adding a further five points each to leave just three points between the teams at the break. Unusually, two of the Limerick points came from the boot of Brian Scanlon, the goalkeeper, who was handed free-taking duties for anything from distance.

Unfortunately for him and his colleagues, he did miss a few good chances in the final moments of the game when the sides were deadlocked but to be fair to him there was a very strong breeze into his face and the pressure on him to convert was perhaps a lot greater than the two kicks in the first half.

Kerry kicked the last two scores of the first half and with a gale helping them in the second; it looked like Limerick had a mammoth task to secure their first provincial title in over a century. Their three-point lead was wiped out in just over five minutes with two class points from Cooper and a fisted effort from the lean looking Michael Quirke.

Limerick needed something to happen but they were to slip further behind and with 50 minutes played they had taken the game by the scruff of the neck and looked out of sight.

In the space of just 16 minutes either side of half-time, Kerry had turned a three-point deficit into a seven-point lead, a massive 10-point turnaround and Limerick looked out on their feet. To their credit they never gave up and that is a quality that Pat Gilroy's Dublin team are sadly lacking.

Ger Collins kicked a neat point off his left to give some hope but the next score rattled Kerry and gave Limerick real self belief and a lot of hope. Brendan Kealy kicked a short kick out to Shane Scanlon who was brilliantly dispossessed by the rampaging Galvin, who raced towards goal with only one thing on his mind.

That goal put just three points between the teams and gave the Limerick players the confidence to push on in the game. Further points from James Ryan, who had a solid game, Collins, and an inspirational point from Galvin yet again put the teams level with just 10 minutes remaining.

Limerick sniffed blood and continued to push forward at every opportunity and a famous victory looked a real possibility. Brian Scanlon missed the chance to edge his team in front and then David Moran made a crucial block just as Jim O'Donovan looked like he might be the hero.

Eoin O'Connor then ran too far and was shepherded out over the end line when it would have been better to hold possession and pick out a colleague in a better position. While Limerick missed the chances that would have won the game, you always felt that if Kerry were presented with a chance they wouldn't be as wasteful.

Cooper edged his team in front with Moran adding another a minute later and with Tomás ó Sé finding the range with the clock ticking into injury-time, the game was won.

Kerry will be delighted to have won the game and you have to hand it to them. When it was there for the winning, they finished the deal and are still the team to beat in this year's competition.

Limerick were great to watch yesterday and they must take the positives out of the game and approach the qualifiers with the same attitude and fighting spirit.

If they can get their heads right they will be a test for most teams but, as we have seen in the past, it can be very difficult to bounce back in such a short space of time.


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