The Limerick squad before the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Cork and Limerick in Croke Park, Dublin last Sunday
Why are Limerick so good?
Why are Dublin not as good?
Former Dublin minor hurler Shay Connolly writes:
Limerick achieved their back to back All Ireland Hurling victories on Sunday in an awesome display of power and skill of our ancient craft and, in my opinion, the game has never ever reached such high skills since its inception. It’s hard to imagine how a higher level could be achieved.
When God created Hurling, I don’t believe that he or she expected that us mere mortal humans could create such wizardry with a stick and a hard piece of cork and leather stitched together. Big, giant-like men with no more than a 34 inch piece of Ash and with the craft of an expert lumberjack felled the Cork forest in just 35 minutes.
Years ago, big men were put in central positions such as full back, not necessarily for their skill set but to act the terrorist with their opposing players and to defend their goal like the Sioux. All types of stuff went on in games years ago to get an edge on your opponent.
Psychology was one of them as you sized up your opponent in those first 10 minutes.. I once told a full back in a team I managed to say more than a few Hail Marys into the full forward’s ear and rile him up so much that he’d hit him in front of the ref and that he as a full back was to take the belt like an ancient Celtic warrior. It worked! But never would such psychological shenanigans be required by a team such as these Shannonside artsmen.
Limerick on Sunday were like the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. No note was missed, no pluck of a string over stretched, no ivory piece over leaned on as they delivered a euphony of melodious hurling skills that left their audience spellbound. But Cork let them play away unperturbed as if they were part of the audience themselves. If they were there to disrupt the orchestra, they brought the wrong music sheets.
In last year’s final, Waterford clogged the defence and the middle to try and stop the Limerick train from getting through. But Limerick didn’t try to ram through the junction. They just picked them off from further back and while 30 points from far out in the field with no goal may not have made for pleasant viewing, it didn’t matter a hoot to Limerick if it meant collecting the Liam McCarthy cup.
For me, Cork came with a game plan to counteract Limerick from last year’s final and not let them shoot cider cans from way out the field. But they got very drunk along the way. Trying to play it out of defence through the eye of an needle in the hope of getting it over Limerick’s undauntable half back line, they crashed time and time again into Limerick’s Wall Street in their own half back line.
And there to pick up the debris was Cian Lynch. A man of six eyes, he has microscopic vision of the play around him and can see moves as good as Russian chess player, Gary Kasparov. And Queen Lynch moved around the board destroying the Cork pawns and knights in his wake, even if he did get away with throwing that ball in the pass for Limerick’s first goal.
Cian Lynch is a nephew of my favourite player of all time, Ciaran Carey. I met Ciaran in the Spar shop in Ringsend a couple of years ago on the eve of the All Ireland Hurling final and an amazing thing about hurling people is that he was as interested in me as I was in him. The appreciation for the game of hurling is king and players, no matter what standard one has achieved, can chat freely about it on a level playing ground.
I remember when I used to puck a ball on Sandymount beach most week nights a few years back. Sometimes I would see different guys way off in the distance doing likewise and we would wave at each other even though we had never lay eyes on each other before. It was an acknowledgement that we were part of the Nation’s hurling family. After leaving Ciaran in the Spar shop that night little did I know that his bloodline was going to produce an even greater player than him.
I believe that the Limerick management team have studied the Dublin football set up. Their mindset is similar. ‘We play our game and we perfect it’ seems to be the identical motto.They don’t deviate from it and no matter what other teams contrive up to disrupt it they stick with their own game. The movements of their forward line is similar.
in other words you are constantly moving and creating the space, if not for yourself then for your team mates and that your first line of defence is your forward line, as it proved for Cork as they spilled ball after ball trying to get it out of defence such was the ferocity of tackling from the Limerick forwards.
There was no thirty yard pass across the pitch from Cork to switch the play, there was no corner or full back joining in the breakout to give them that option. Instead they were between two stools and they fell embarrassingly between them. There is one obvious difference in that you can’t kick a football over the bar from 80 or 90 yards. So other measures, some quite boring and tedious have to be adapted to get through packed defences..
But alas there is also another obvious difference. As I Iisten to and read about this fantastic Limerick team there is universal acknowledgement of just how great they are.When Dublin footballers had won their back to back All-Irelands and three out of four All-Irelands and in the exact same position as Limerick are today the punditry and journalists were already a long time in place with suggestions of splitting Dublin in two, the money that Dublin receive and a host other negative commentary. No matter how many times one points this out it can never ever be accepted outside Dublin that there is an inherent bias towards Dublin in Gaelic Games.
For a long time now I have held the view that this bias is deep rooted. Dublin was the centre of British Rule in Ireland.. The entire country paid their taxes to this unpopular county. The shocking laws imposed on them (and us) were initiated from Dublin etc. And despite suffering some of the worst slums and deprivation under British Rule, despite so many of them starving during the 1913 Lockout in trying to break the British system, despite so many hundreds of them from tenament housing turning out for the 1916 Rising, the County was still branded as a separate British colony within a colony.
It has never eased and despite the obstacles that the British type set here in Dublin used to prevent it gaining a hold in the “Second city of the Empire” it succeeded beyond expectation. Of course its Gaelic football I talk about as Dublin Hurlers have not succeeded since 1938 and when only one Dublin man, Jim Byrne was on the team.
God forbid if they do indeed make the breakthrough in Hurling but I doubt that they could even win one when the naysayers would begin to begrudge them that victory. In the meantime many officials, both inside and on the pitch are making sure they don’t have to deal with this headache in the first place.
A mighty well done to Limerick on your brilliant achievement and performance. It will take some team of class, strength and guile to dislodge you as All Ireland champions, even if you did give up too easily to Cromwell forces in 1651 in the Siege of Limerick!. At least us Ringsenders ordered Cromwell to move on or else when he first landed here in our small village in 1649!! Gwan the Raytowners…
Shay Connolly is a writer/songwriter, a Ringsend resident and a former Dublin Minor Hurler.