Limerick have defended the All-Ireland title for the first time in their history, after a dominant 3-32 to 1-22 win over Cork.
A hall-mark of the great teams across any sport is that they produce their best performances on the biggest stage.
This Limerick team has certainly cemented their greatness. And whatever they may go on to achieve in the coming years, the 2021 All-Ireland final may prove to be the reference point of this team’s brilliance.
The message from the camp in recent weeks was that they were hoping to produce their A-game for an entire 70-minute period. And they managed to do just that, mustering the perfect storm to blow the Rebels away.
Limerick showed they meant business right from the off, as Cian Lynch fired over within seconds of throw-in. Moments later, they found the net for the first time. The Patrickswell maestro played in Gearoid Hegarty, and the 2020 Hurler of the Year buried it past Patrick Collins in the Cork goal.
The Lee-siders badly needed a response, and found it. They patiently worked the ball up the field, before it fell to Shane Kingston. The Douglas star ran at the Limerick defence, tearing in from the left wing and rifled it into the roof of the goal.
However, the Treaty continued to pour forward. Peter Casey was the marksman-in-chief, as the six starting forwards all scored from play in the opening half.
Collins found himself picking the ball out of the net once again in the 15th minute, after Aaron Gillane planted his feet and buried it to help his side into a 2-8 to 1-6 lead at the water break.
Seamus Harnedy opened the second-quarter scoring, but then Limerick executed their gear-change, posting five points without reply.
Cork had no answer to the savage Limerick physicality and work-rate. They continued to dominate, before Hegarty found the net once more in injury-time.
When Fergal Horgan blew the half-time whistle, Limerick led 3-18 to 1-11, and it looked to be all over.
Limerick’s hunger never dwindled in the second half. Graeme Mulcahy pointed moments after the restart, as the Treaty looked to cruise home. Cian Lynch thrived on open spaces as the game broke down in the third quarter, with the reigning champions leading 3-26 to 1-16 at the second water break.
The Rebels did get the anticipated bounce from their bench, but it was a case of too little, too late. The celebrations were well under way before the full-time whistle. Declan Hannon, who becomes the first player since Christy Ring to captain three All-Ireland victories, punched the air in celebration while coming off in the 65th minute.
Lynch pulled the strings until the death, as his five second-half points helped the Treaty to a 16-point victory.
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It was a harsh lesson for Cork on the biggest day in the sport. But given their age profile, along with the underage titles claimed this week at minor at U20, they will come back stronger.
However, it was Limerick’s day. The Treaty are champions once again, and have written themselves into the history books.
Limerick: Aaron Gillane (1-6, 0-3f), Gearoid Hegarty (2-2), Cian Lynch (0-6), Peter Casey (0-5), Tom Morrissey (0-3), Diarmaid Byrnes (0-2, 0-1f), Declan Hannon (0-2), Barry Nash (0-1), Darragh O’Donovan (0-1), Seamus Flanagan (0-1), Graeme Mulcahy (0-1), David Reidy (0-1), Pat Ryan (0-1).
Cork: Patrick Horgan (0-12, 0-10f), Seamus Harnedy (0-4), Shane Kingston (1-0), Niall O’Leary (0-1), Mark Coleman (0-1, 0-1f), Luke Meade (0-1), Jack O’Connor (0-1), Alan Cadogan (0-1), Shane Barrett (0-1).
1. Nickie Quaid
2. Seán Finn
3. Dan Morrissey
4. Barry Nash
5. Diarmaid Byrnes
6. Declan Hannon
7. Kyle Hayes
8. William O’Donoghue
9. Darragh O’Donovan
10. Gearoid Hegarty
11. Cian Lynch
12. Tom Morrissey
13. Aaron Gillane
14. Séamus Flanagan
15. Peter Casey
Graeme Mulcahy for Peter Casey (35th minute)
David Reidy for Cian Lynch (42nd-44th minute – temp)
David Reidy for Gearoid Hegarty (62nd minute)
Colin Coughlan for Declan Hannon (65th minute)
Barry Murphy for Graeme Mulcahy (68th minute)
Pat Ryan for Tom Morrissey (70th minute)
1. Patrick Collins
2. Niall O’Leary
3. Robert Downey
4. Seán O’Donoghue
5. Tim O’Mahony
6. Mark Coleman
7. Eoin Cadogan
8. Darragh Fitzgibbon
9. Luke Meade
10. Conor Cahalane
11. Séamus Harnedy
12. Robbie O’Flynn
13. Jack O’Connor
14. Patrick Horgan
15. Shane Kingston
Damien Cahalane for Conor Cahalane (half-time)
Alan Cadogan for Jack O’Connor (47th minute)
Sean O’Leary Hayes for Niall O’Leary (47th minute)
Shane Barrett for Darragh Fitzgibbon (47th minute)
Niall Cashman for Sean O’Donoghue (53rd minute)
Declan Dalton for Robbie O’Flynn (55th minute – injured)
Our live GAA coverage continues next Saturday, with the All-Ireland SFC semi-final between Kerry and Tyrone live on Sky Sports Arena from 2:30pm.