Limerick 3-16 Galway 2-18
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final
Croke Park Sunday 19th August 2018
So the hurling year finished in the fashion we’ve grown accustomed to in this most dramatic of summers. Limerick held their nerve to hold on as Galway stormed back into the game with two injury time goals. The ghosts of 1994 were banished as they lost a commanding lead and just about held on to win. Joe Canning had a chance late on to level the game with a free from deep in his own half, but the shot fell short and Limerick’s Tom Condon cleared their lines as the final whistle sounded. The roar of relief and joy at the end from the Treaty faithful was deafening, and ‘Limerick your a lady’ boomed out across Croke Park to greet Limerick’s first Liam McCarty triumph in 45 years.
The pace and passion of this final made up for the lack of quality at times. The game started at a ferocious tempo as Limerick tore into the reigning champions early on. They outfought and outfoxed the reigning champions for most of the game. They surged into a three-point lead thanks to scores from Aaron Gillane, Kyle Hayes and Graeme Mulcahy and indeed could have been further ahead but for some wayward shooting. Galway slowly got a foothold in the game and Joe Canning settled their nerves with a pointed ’65. Midfielders Cian Lynch and David Burke then swapped points, before Padraic Mannion landed a big effort. Darragh O’Donovan kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Treaty men before two Joe Canning frees and a Joseph Cooney point saw Galway lead for the first and the only time in the match.
In the 16th minute Kyle Hayes broke into a yard of space near goal his effort was smothered by Galway defender Daithí Burke, but Graeme Mulcahy was on hand to bundle the breaking ball into the net. Tom Morrissey and two Declan Hannon points followed and Limerick were 1-8 to 0-6 ahead. Indeed they could have been further in front as their wides tally was already at 10 by this stage. Galway’s David Burke got one back with a fine run and point and further scores from Joe Canning and Joseph Cooney cut the gap to two points. Limerick broke the Galway momentum with an Aaron Gillane free and a further point from Séamus Flannagan in first-half stoppage time left the score at the break Limerick 1-10 Galway 0-09
The spine of the Limerick team continued to dominate their opponents as Mike Casey, Declan Hannon, Cian Lynch, Kyle Hayes and Séamus Flanagan all were superb in their individual battles. Hayes continued where he left off immediately after the break as he intercepted a stray ball from Padraic Mannion to pick off another point. Joseph Cooney responded with a point before Cian Lynch replied with a booming long range effort. Kyle Hayes needed confirmation from Hawkeye for next point, which he followed up with another point immediately afterwards. Aaron Gillane pointed for Limerick to stretch their lead to eight points. Two Joe Canning efforts, one from play and a free brought the margin back to six, but Limerick’s second goal arrived shortly after this as Gearóid McInerney failed to clear his lines and Tom Morrissey pounced to fire home. At this stage, Limerick led by 2-15 (21) to 0-12 and the champions looked out on their feet.
Injuries stalled the play during this spell as Conor Cooney was ordered to leave the field to get a blood injury seen to, then Galway keeper James Skehill needed attention after a point-blank save to smother a Séamus Flannagan shot. He was attended to for a few minutes by medical staff before being replaced by Fearghal Flannery. Prior to Morrissey’s goal Limerick full-back Mike Casey also needed to be replaced after picking up a knock and Richie McCarthy came on in his place. These injuries and a flurry of substitutions were later to account for the 8 minutes of injury time allowed.
Three Joe Canning frees and another David Burke point gave Galway hope before Shane Dowling looked to have settled matters with a goal in the 68th minute. Limerick led by 3-15 (24) to 0-16 heading into injury time and surely it was done and dusted now. However, Galway summoned up reserves of energy which appeared to be missing for large parts of the game and Conor Whelan pounced for a goal which gave the Tribesmen a glimmer of hope. That hope was ignited when Joe Canning drove a 21 yard free to the net which was followed up by a Niall Burke point and suddenly it was a one point game.
It was a fitting crescendo for a season that had crackled with dramatic games. Limerick fans began to break out into cold sweats as memories of their infamous collapse to Offaly in 1994 came flooding back. Graeme Mulcahy somewhat eased Limerick nerves with a point to put them two ahead again, only for Canning to cut the gap to the minimum once again. Despite Galway’s valiant efforts to find a leveller, it was Limerick that deserved the crown. Their energy and work rate were a joy to behold. Both sides were guilty of racking up the wides, Limerick hit 20 while Galway had 16, but the pressure put on the shooters by the respective defences was the main reason for these misses rather than poor shot selection or wasteful forwards. John Kiely’s men are deserving champions to our memorable 2018 season.