Munster Senior Hurling Final – Waterford put up huge resistance before Limerick come of age

Liam Lenihan, Chairperson Munster GAA presented the Munster trophy to Limerick’s Declan Hannon.

By Matt O’Callaghan
Limerick were crowned Munster Senior Hurling champions for a 21st time but not before having to see off a very gritty Waterford challenge in the final in Semple Stadium Thurles on Sunday.
It is back to back titles for Limerick for the first time since 1980-81 while for Waterford the wait for a first Munster success since 2010 goes on for another year at least.
It was a highly entertaining provincial decider played in the surreal surroundings of a deserted Semple Stadium. Limerick came into the game on the back of very convincing wins over Clare and Tipperary and with the mantle of favourites but after 70 minutes of high octane action, Waterford showed that the green shoots of revival in Déise fortunes in the win over Cork in the semi-final are for real.
Waterford matched Lime-rick stride for stride for three quarters of the game and were on level terms at the second water break. After the resumption, John Kiely raided his bench again with the desired outcome as in previous games and all over the field Limerick appeared to find a new gear and outscored the Déise seven points to three on the home straight.
Séamus Flanagan and Adrian Breen came off the bench and both got on the scoreboard with important points. These and two excellent efforts from Graeme Mulcahy in the closing stages played a major part in Limerick retaining the title.
Cian Lynch was named Man of the Match after yet another huge performance in the green jersey with excellent support from William O’Donoghue. They had a grip in that middle area and did not allow Jamie Barron impose his will on matters any way like he did against Cork.
It was not Limerick’s best performance but any day you win a Munster final without being at your best, it is hard to be critical. In the past Limerick teams have played better and lost but this squad have the mental strength to go for it, they refuse to lie down and that was most evident in the final fifteen minutes.
Tadhg De Búrca was again immense for Waterford at the back and up front Stephen Bennett had a good day at the office and his sharp shooting from dead balls and from play ensured Limerick found it difficult to put clear daylight between themselves and the Déise. Bennett in the 51st minute nudged Waterford in front for the one and only time in the game.
Limerick started brightly with early points from Graeme Mulcahy and Peter Casey before Waterford found their feet and landed two in a minute through Dessie Hutchinson and Jake Dillon to tie up the scores by the fourth minute.
Patrickswell duo Aaron Gillane and Cian Lynch restored Limerick’s two points cushion before Austin Gleeson traded points first with Diarmaid Byrnes and then Aaron Gillane before three points from Stephen Bennett to a solitary reply from Gillane left the sides deadlocked at the first water break 0-7 apiece.
A brace of quickfire points from Peter Casey put Limerick back in front after the resumption. Bennett and Gillane exchanged frees before Diarmaid Byrnes from a 65 and Aaron Gillane eased Limerick four clear, 0-12 to 0-8.
Killian Bennett from an acute angle narrowed the gap, Cian Lynch replied ahead of two Bennett frees and one from Gillane completing the first half scoring with Limerick in front 0-14 to 0-11.
Whatever words of wisdom Liam Cahill imparted on his charges at half time had the desired effect as they reeled off three quick-fire points, two Stephen Bennett frees and Jack Prendergast from play to restore parity within five minutes of the restart.
It was still level at the second water break, 0-18 apiece, after each side added a quartet of minors to their tallies. Aaron Gillane two, Graeme Mulcahy and Gearóid Hegarty on the mark for the champions with Stephen Bennet three and Austin Gleeson responding for the Déise.
Points from Séamus Flanagan who had just come into the game and Gearóid Hegarty put Limerick back in front, Jake Dillon replied for Waterford but further white flags from Gillane and a Mulcahy double saw Limerick stride four points clear with six minutes remaining.
Substitutes Patrick Curran for Waterford and Adrian Breen for Limerick swapped points before Aaron Gillane’s tenth successful strike of the game put Limerick five clear as they game entered the three minutes of time added on.
Waterford were awarded a late close in free, Stephen Bennet had no choice but go for a goal and his effort was blocked out for a 65 which he successfully converted but it was too little too late to end his county’s ten year wait for a Munster senior crown.
Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 0-10, 8fs; Graeme Mulcahy 0-4; Peter Casey 0-3; Gearoid Cian Lynch, Diarmaid Byrnes 1f, 1-65, Gearóid Hegarty 0-2 each; Séamus Flanagan, Adrian Breen 0-1
Scorers: Waterford: Stephen Bennett 0-12, 8fs, 1-65; Austin Gleeson 0-3; Jake Dillon 0-2; Dessie Hutchinson, Kieran Bennett, Jack Prendergast, Patrick Curran 0-1 each.
Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Seán Finn, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes; Cian Lynch, William O’Donoghue, Gearóid Hegarty, David Reidy, Tom Morrissey; Graeme Mulcahy, Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey.
Subs: Séamus Flanagan for Peter Casey (53), David Dempsey for Tom Morrissey (53), Darragh O’Donovan for David Reidy (56), Adrian Breen for Graeme Mulcahy (67).
Waterford: Stephen O’ Keeffe; Shane Fives, Conor Prunty, Shane McNulty; Calum Lyons, Tadhg de Búrca, Kevin Moran; Jamie Barron, Jake Dillon; Jack Fagan, Kieran Bennett, Jack Prendergast; Dessie Hutchinson, Stephen Ben-nett, Austin Gleeson.
Subs: Neil Montgomery for Jack Fagan (47), Michael Kearney for Kieran Bennett (58), Ian Kenny for Shane Fives (61), Darragh Lyons for Jake Dillon (63), Patrick Curran for Austin Gleeson (67)
Referee: Colm Lyons, Cork.