Thursday 22 August 2019

Vincent Hogan: 'Munster final thrashing may well be a revolution in Limerick's relationship with Tipperary'

Limerick's odds shorten on a successful All-Ireland defence as Premier men find them just too hot to handle in closing stages

Tipperary’s Padraic Maher is knocked on to the ground by this collision with Limerick’s Graeme Mulcahy at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Tipperary’s Padraic Maher is knocked on to the ground by this collision with Limerick’s Graeme Mulcahy at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

They needed the jam wiped from their mouths in the end, these remarkable young bucks for whom history is a cliche they choose to leave at the door. John Kiely's boys are different and their people know it.

Almost blandly sure of themselves. Serene in the maelstrom. Calculating. Patient. Implacable. The force of their authority over Tipperary became so vivid here, how could you not return to that question squatting over everything they did in Thurles two weeks back?

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John Kiely wants his Limerick forwards to be more clinical. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
John Kiely wants his Limerick forwards to be more clinical. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Was it an exercise in roguery?

We had a game, and a live one, for three quarters of an hour. But then? If we imagined John McGrath's 44th-minute goal might blow a few fuses in Limerick heads, levelling as it did a contest they'd been dominating territorially, their response proved utterly, utterly ruthless.

They didn't simply win the remainder 1-13 to 0-4, they physically dominated Tipp in such a way that Liam Sheedy may be torn this week between conducting a video review or an autopsy.

So, Thurles a fortnight back?

"Nah, they schooled us," insisted Shane Dowling of that four-point loss on June 16. "The stupidity talk (of Limerick trying to sidestep a Munster final given only one winner from the province - Tipp in 2016 - have added the Liam MacCarthy since '05), why would you want to avoid that?

"Papers must have been quiet enough that week if people were considering that a team the like of us wouldn't go out to play at the highest standard at all times."

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Maybe so, but this was something. An expression of total hurling collaged with individual victories in every line; so spiritually, tactically emphatic it became a mix of chess and the raging inferno of their desire.

Limerick now hold every significant piece of silverware it is within their gift to win. And they look like a team still growing.

If the middle third was always cursed to be claustrophobic here, they were perfectly fine with that. The compression of space is something they have on speed-dial. The exploitation of it is their art.

At times during those first 45 minutes, Tipp hurled beautifully without ever quite looking as if they'd reached the pitch of things.

Seamie Callanan's sublime 17th-minute goal put them five points clear, but the margin represented a thundering lie. Brian Hogan had already made a wonder double-save from Cian Lynch and Kyle Hayes, while Aaron Gillane spooned a clear goal chance over the Ennis Road End crossbar just seconds after Callanan's strike.

Indeed, Hogan would save magnificently again, from Gearóid Hegarty in the 28th minute, by which time Gillane had put a rampant Peter Casey in for Limerick's only first-half goal.

Limerick led by a mere two then at halfway. But, with the wind to come, it already felt enough.

Hogan saved again, this time from Hayes in the 42nd minute before the dam finally broke 14 minutes later, James Barry having his pocket picked by Casey and Hayes sniping in behind to beat the defiant Lorrha man.

Those spurned goal opportunities focused Kiely's attention afterwards more than any noise of Mardi Gras building among his people.

"Believe me, we left too many..." he grumbled. "It's the only possible stain on the performance for me that we didn't put it to bed earlier."

To lose here, clearly, was something Limerick would not, could not, countenance. As Kiely put it, losing a Munster final "with the team we have" on home soil would have wounded his players in a way "you'd carry with you for a long time afterwards".

Even with Hogan's excellence, even with Gillane brilliantly policed by Brendan Maher, even with Ronan Maher hurling manfully pretty much all through, Tipp just found themselves hunted down an endless warren of cul-de-sacs.

Their midfield had been replaced inside 54 minutes while 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, Jake Morris and - goal apart - John McGrath could not find a way into the game.

Limerick's authority was absolute and, in the end, almost without conscious effort. Their hurling relationship with Tipp may be spangled with plenty of short-term rebellions, but this has the feel of revolution.

On this evidence, their back men are the best around, their midfield stocked with energy that doesn't run down and, even with Gillane largely under wraps, their attack still looked capable of accumulating a monstrous total.

Kiely declared the margin of victory a surprise, but not the lift in performance from June 16.

"That final game of three in a row is a tough one," the manager reflected, he - like Dowling - beating down any murmurings of subterfuge.

"I don't know if we'll ever crack it, but it's a tough, tough gig. You'd have to expect the intensity levels to go up given the two-week break. Once we began to find our rhythm, our intensity levels went up and we were able to maintain them."

So four weeks now to prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final and the mere mention of time-management draws a wry smile from Dowling.

Making his way through the great throng when it was over, Darragh O'Donovan had joked to him that they could do with an underground tunnel.

"I said 'they didn't need it for the last 40 years so they had no reason to build one!'" he chuckled.

"Look, it doesn't make a difference to this team whether it's two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. I guarantee now, people will be going on about 2013... there was whatever amount of weeks (five) break and Clare beat ye.

"It has absolutely no relevance to this team. This team is different."

For Tipp, the season remains alive but momentum is in small pieces on the floor now.

"We just didn't really find our flow today and you have to credit Limerick for that," sighed Sheedy honestly.

"Ultimately, we lost too many individual battles. Therefore, overall, we lost the war.

"We knew Limerick would up it a gear. But they went up a fair few gears today.

"The players are hurting right now, but for us the healing process starts this evening."

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