Four things we learned on Saturday
It was said of Stanley Matthews, the wizard of the dribble, that opposing full-backs knew what he was going to do to them.
They just couldn’t stop him doing it. It is much the same with Brian Cody.
We know what he does. We’ve been watching it for two decades. He hasn’t changed his act. Yet he still keeps producing teams to do a job.
Spirit, spirit, spirit. Honesty. Pull (albeit not on the ground) like a dog.
In these latter days of Kilkenny’s genteel impoverishment the mantra doesn’t always work. Sometimes the other crowd are simply better.
But Cody’s teams never fail to get their boots on the ground and that matters.
They didn’t horse Limerick out of it, they’re not built along those lines anymore, but they made damn sure they weren’t horsed out of it themselves, and in doing so they set the tone.
Saturday was a triumph too for Mick Dempsey, who produced the underdogs in supreme fettle.
Kilkenny were half a second quicker, half a beat sharper. Look — shades of the 2006 All-Ireland final — at the blocks and hooks they got in and the number of forced wides Limerick had.
At half-time it appeared as though the challengers might have punched themselves out.
Ditto at the three-quarter stage, upon which they summoned a second wind and sprinted clear again via an unanswered four-point burst from Adrian Mullen, Colin Fennelly, Mullen again, and Fennelly again. They had made their break for home.
A word about Padraig Walsh, who does not get quite the credit he deserves because of his surname. Imagine being that good— is there a defender in the land more comfortable attacking the ball in any direction? — and being only the third best hurler in the family. (Yes. Third. Grace Walsh would ate you without salt.)
A word too about TJ Reid, whose backstory is well known.
For so long one of the Indians, eventually he became not just one of the chiefs but the Big Chief, a tale of personal development for which the credit goes to both himself and the manager.
Reid has grown into the Reid of 2018-19 because he insists on playing like one of the Indians.
And so Cody beats on, a boat against the current, borne ceaselessly into the future.
John Kiely’s men lost a battle. Big deal. They’ve spent the last 12 months winning wars and rewriting history.
John Kiely’s men lost a match they were expected to win. Big deal. They won an All-Ireland two or three years before they were expected to.
They did a non-calendar year Grand Slam of Championship, National League, and provincial title.
Do we really need to say that had any Limerick supporter — every Limerick supporter — been presented with such a scenario this time last year they’d have bitten off every hand within their postal code?
By way of consolation for them today there’s a precedent here. In hurling there’s always a precedent.
There once was a team who won the All-Ireland in great style. The following summer they won the provincial final by a double-digit margin.
Consecutive MacCarthy Cups appeared a certainty. Then on All-Ireland semi-final day they encountered opponents who went to war against them and won.
At the time the 2001 All-Ireland semi-final — you might just have heard of it — appeared like the end of the road for Cody’s Kilkenny.
It turned out to be merely the conclusion of a chapter, and a twist ending that Cody never forgot.
Kilkenny thought they were prepared for battle that day; they were wrong. Limerick thought they were prepared for battle on Saturday; they were wrong.
At any rate they were unprepared for battle against Cody’s Kilkenny.
Not so much a case of the old dog for the hard road as a case of young pups against old and young and middle-aged cats.
It is far too early to begin to contemplate the shape of Limerick’s likely XV for 2020.
It will not be a surprise, however, if Kyle Hayes — a non-factor in an attacking sense here — makes the long mooted move to the half-back line.
Above all Kiely will need to find a wing-forward or corner-forward with a touch of stardust about him; an older version, say, of Cathal O’Neill, so good for the minor team in the first half on Saturday.
The losers sourced 0-7 from their starting attack, the winners 1-11.
Last year the lack of a superstar forward proved one of Limerick’s strengths. This year it undid them.
There will be a certain amount of hot air blown on this topic in the coming days. Ignore it. In a match whose terms, albeit dictated by Kilkenny, suited them perfectly, Limerick had every chance to win.
At half-time, three points down, they were near enough if good enough. At the three-quarter stage, one point down, they were near enough if good enough.
With four minutes left, again one point down following Shane Dowling’s intervention — Colin Fennelly batted his goal to the net; Dowling battered his goal to the net — and David Reidy’s point, they were near enough if good enough.
Despite the four-week break from the Munster final, Cork were six points up on Limerick at the furlong pole last year.
Nor did a similar hiatus from the Leinster decider do Galway the slightest harm two years ago. To repeat, ignore the hot air.
Or has the world now been turned upside down, to the extent that the apparent greater intensity in Leinster leaves the southern champions at a disadvantage come All Ireland semi-finals?
Officiating remains an issue. Limerick had every right to complain about the injury-time 65’ that wasn’t.
Whatever about the umpire on the near post, both Alan Kelly and the linesman should have seen that Cillian Buckley, who in any case was standing too close, got a touch.
Kilkenny had every right to complain about the Limerick penalty, not so much because it was soft — which it was — but because Aaron Gillane stepped over the white line and connected with the sliotar inside the 20-metre line.
How could Kelly possibly have missed this? That makes it two egregious failures for Kelly and his umpires in two seasons (remember the Waterford/Tipp ghost goal debacle last year?).
It will be a surprise if the appointments people give them scope for a third strike.
Dalo's Hurling Podcast: Tipperary's defiance. Will Davy Fitz stay on? Kilkenny tactics. Cody's greatest semi-final victory?