They used to say that Sugar Ray Robinson would have added the world light-heavyweight title to his haul but for one broiling night in Madison Square Garden, when the referee passed out from the heat in the 14th round as Robinson challenged Joey Maxim for the title.
Kudos to Brian Gavin for seeing out the 70 in Limerick yesterday, then, because the old Garden could hardly have been warmer than the Gaelic Grounds were.
“Fairly draining,” said Limerick’s Declan Hannon afterwards. “Even at half-time people were absolutely drained, but you just had to keep going, keep trying.
“Once Tipp got the goal, our fitness kicked in. We were able to last the 70, unlike last year. That’s what won it for us in the finish.”
Credit Hannon with the gift of brevity along with a pure striking action. His swift recounting summed up Limerick’s hour and a quarter on the field neatly.
When substitute John O’Dwyer hit a fine goal to jump Tipperary out to a three-point lead, one would have been forgiven for assuming the game would then take the course preordained by knowing pundits.
Limerick, however, had past experiences to call on for sustenance.
After the game Richie McCarthy faced the media and sounded like he was trying to win a bet in the dressing room with the number of times he referred to last year’s defeat to Tipp — much as Hannon did above — but the point wasn’t lost on those listening, just as it wasn’t lost on Limerick players.
“They got the goal last year and we didn’t react,” said McCarthy, man of the match for most observers. “When you concede, you need to get a goal straight away and we got that score and drove on again.
“John Allen was saying that maybe we didn’t have the subs last year to bring in — this year we did. Shane Dowling got a great score, and other boys chipped in, like Niall Moran. Some character they showed.
“That’s championship hurling. You’re not going to get every score. We were happy to be leading at half-time by any score.
“We knew Tipp were going to come back, that’s the way the game of hurling is. They’re going to have their purple patch but we reacted as good Limerick teams do.”
Eamon O’Shea, true to his nature, didn’t sidestep questions about Limerick possibly having more desire than his charges.
“You are always concerned when you lose a match,” said the Tipperary boss. “To be honest with you we are going to have to look very closely how hard we worked to win a game.
“But you know, we gave a lot: the lads gave everything to win out there. I think we used 20 players and we tried very hard but the fact is Limerick were better than us.”
John Allen had a recent benchmark to encourage him ahead of yesterday. Recently the Limerick All-Ireland-winning team of 1973 had a sociable reunion with the Kilkenny men they beat 40 years ago.
The current Limerick and Kilkenny sides played to commemorate the occasion and the Shannonsiders won.
“I suppose I felt we were in a limbo, playing in Division 1B and not knowing how good you are, how good the team is because you haven’t been playing at the higher grade,” said Allen.
“So at the back of your head somewhere you’re thinking, ‘well, will we be beaten out the gate?’
“But two weeks ago we played Kilkenny and beat them and no matter what Kilkenny team you’re playing, it’s a measure that you’re somewhere up there.”
Limerick have some work to do: they needed Nicky Quaid to be superb in the first half, and not once but twice. Richie McCarthy said Quaid was the best goalkeeper in the country, but Allen would probably prefer him not to be so busy. But McCarthy’s point about the strength of the bench will be a huge bonus to Limerick facing into a Munster final. They had substitutes to come in to have an impact and whatever temperature is set in the provincial decider, they’ll need to empty the bench again.