GAA | All-Ireland hurling final review
Updated: Sep 23
Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch; the early 1990’s hip-hop group were short-lived, but still, remnants of their virtuosity live on, pertinent in the national broadcaster’s play-out montage of Sunday’s All-Ireland Hurling final.
Not particularly because the celebrations of Limerick captain Declan Hannon and his band of brothers shared the energy of the leg-aching dance moves for the video of the 1991 Billboard topper, but relevance in the lyrics.
“Now we come to the pay-off.”
It is one of the opening salvos from the song but ties in with the accomplishment that John Kiely’s side achieved, in what was ultimately a dominant display of competence and dexterity.
It’s all underpinned by a common theme, work rate. It wasn’t pre-rehearsed; it was a clear trend in the emotive post-match interviews. Kiely spoke of his side's focus on endeavour.
Gearóid Hegarty, in his own interview, spoke of the effort put in on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s in training, as well as the non-match weekends.
Hannon said people wouldn’t realise the hours everybody puts in. But the evidence of the toil behind the triumph was laid out in an artisan, focused display, in a seismic win. The Rebel Treble was no longer a mantra, just a short-lived aspiration. In Croke Park, everything paid off.
Talk of a complete performance may give rise to inclinations of a final act. However, dominance is now a very real ideal. The consistency of the performance by Limerick was self-evident. Every Limerick forward scored from play in the opening quarter. It is hard to consider an individual battle where a Limerick player did not dominate.
It was also evident in some of Cork’s play. Patrick Horgan being forced deeper in an effort to retrieve puck outs, saw him move further down the field as the game progressed. Desperation, maybe, from a player whose side were slipping further back, loose shale on a mountain climb no longer holding.
Cian Lynch will be aware by now of the Harry Potter analogies picked up online, but you would imagine a muggle of Lynch’s ability would be enough to force Potter off the Gryffindor team. Lynch scored after ten seconds and never looked back once. Constantly probing, finding and creating space amidst a team of individual flair that are united by humility and self-sacrifice. He scored one point in the first half and set up 2-4. Another five from play in the second half. The leadership he showed when leading the charge in the Munster final fight back, was illustrated again in the standard of excellence he set.
There was no ten-point clawback required here like there was in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. But the licence Kiely and his backroom give Lynch to express himself was evident in the freedom he showed in the confines of a structured plan.
His shoulders as quick as his feet, he effectively took a triumvirate of Cork players out of contention. The 2018 hurler of the year, set up the 2020 hurler of the year, Hegarty taking a smart, adroit goal.
There wasn’t even two minutes played. It was rip-roaring stuff, and the narrative took a swivel when Shane Kingston backed up his father’s decision to start him, after his splendid show of effervescence and accuracy in the semi-final win over Kilkenny. His angled goal was timely.
If Cork relief collided with the start of belief, it was short-lived. In the 14th minute, it was a one-point game. Lynch’s Patrickswell clubmate, Aaron Gillane, was the recipient of a ball into space in front of Patrick Collins. Seamus Flanagan had brought Cork’s Sean O’Donoghue and Robert Downey with him. Gillane struck through Downey’s legs and the ball bounced shortly before Collins, but the speed and accuracy were too great.
Peter Casey was demonstrative with five points before his injury. An awkward turn ended his game, but not before he tried to plough on. Hegarty’s second goal saw Limerick to a 13-point half-time advantage.
The second half started, but it felt like it was game over. Limerick were 16 points up after the second water break. Kingston spoke afterwards that it was like trying to stop the tide with a bucket. There was an analogy drawn to that of a Limerick shaped boulder.
The descriptiveness of the effort, of the chasm created, could intake all number of dramatic comparisons. The point, to articulate the completeness of the performance.
All is not lost for Cork. They clearly have players coming through, evident in the minor win over Galway and the dominance in Cork winning the Under-20 final with relative ease over Galway; a month after securing the delayed 2020 trophy.
But Tipperary’s Mikey Maher, Kilkenny’s Dick Walsh and Christy Ring of Cork are now joined by Hannon in being the only players to captain their counties to three All-Ireland Hurling victories.
Sharing the victory with a depleted but vociferously joyous Limerick following, it would be easy for the focus to be lost. But the real brilliance is two-fold. Firstly, the determination of the likes of Kyle Hayes and Seán Finn to pursue excellence through effort when human nature might have dictated to ease off.
Then there is the humility. Limerick will enjoy this, the players should, what else is it for? But the modesty of Kiely seeps through this team. They will return and will feel entitled to nothing.