Limerick’s minor hurlers superbly atoned for the Hawk-Eye injustice, and, indeed, the Galway defeat that marred their 2013 campaign, leaping with consummate ease a semi-final hurdle that had proved so contentious last year.
Manager Brian Ryan said the events of last August was “water under the bridge” during his post-match assessment, but his reaction, and that of his players, told a very different story at the game’s end.
Fifteen points clear when referee Colm Lyons sounded the final whistle, the fists of the boys in green punched the air, the management team embracing joyously on the sideline. Redemption, atonement, September hurling.
Not alone were the ghosts of last year laid to rest, a statement of intent was issued to Pat Hoban’s Kilkenny outfit. Limerick finished with 28 scores, 18 arriving during a powerful first-half display. Moreover, each member of their front eight had contributed from open play by the 40th minute mark, Barry Nash, whose effort was at the centre of the Hawk-Eye storm, tallying 1-3.
Encapsulating Limerick’s dominance, and by the same token Galway’s plight, was the statistic showing the westerners entire half-back line had been withdrawn by the half-hour mark.
“We are just delighted with the performance today,” reflected Ryan.
“There is no doubt the experience of last year stood to us. We said before we need to get Limerick teams to Croke Park on a more frequent basis. That is central to our underage development policy.
“Barry Nash was very good, Ronan Lynch was very good, but we have a lot of good, young hurlers out there. There is a lot of competition for places in the panel. We were able to introduce Barry Murphy and he only joined the panel 10 days ago.”
Right from the gun, Limerick’s pace, power and panache caught Galway unaware, the winners storming 0-6 to 0-1 ahead inside seven minutes — Ronan Lynch, Tom Morrissey, Peter Casey and Barry Nash splitting the posts.
Conor Whelan provided Galway with an early reprieve, finding the net on eight minutes. The Limerick response was as emphatic as it was decisive. Robbie Hanley, Seamus Flanagan, Conor Fitzgerald, Nash, Ronan Lynch and Morrissey registered 11 of the game’s next 12 scores to move the Treaty youngsters 1-16 to 1-3 clear, Nash rattling the onion sack on 23 minutes, put through by full-forward Morrissey.
Whelan pilfered a second Galway goal thereafter, a fine individual effort when cutting in from the Cusack Stand sideline and staving off two Limerick defenders before firing past keeper Eoghan McNamara.
“Conor Whelan’s first goal came against the run of play,” continued Ryan. “We responded and it was great to see players scoring so frequently out there. We hit one or two purple patches which we hadn’t being doing all year.
“Tactically we have a lot of work done. Our target from day one was to get to a final and we are there now. There was a lot of tough hurdles out there. Kilkenny will be formidable, but we have massive confidence in the lads’ ability.”
Clear by nine points at the interval, the second half turned into a procession. Galway required a third goal early at the change of ends, but it was Limerick who should have scored a second goal, Galway substitute Cathal O’Reilly blocking Ronan Lynch’s drive.
The Tribesmen’s final point was registered on 49 minutes, full-forward Brian Burke the contributor, with Limerick enjoying a most comfortable stroll down the home stretch. Points courtesy of Ronan Lynch (0-2), Peter Casey and Nash sealed the result.
Scorers for Limerick: B Nash (0-13, 0-1 ’65, 0-9f); B Nash (1-3), P Casey, T Morrissey (0-3 each); S Flanagan (0-2); C Lynch, C Fitzgerald, R Hanley (0-1).
Scorers for Galway: C Whelan (2-0); B Burke (0-4, 0-3f), D Nevin, J Grealish (0-2); C Shaughnessy (0-1).
LIMERICK: E McNamara (Doon); S Finn (Bruff), P O’Loughlin (Kilmallock), L Lyons (Monaleen); C Ryan (Pallasgreen), A La Touche Cosgrave (Monaleen), C Byrnes (Murroe Boher); R Hanley (Kilmallock), R Lynch (Na Piarsaigh); S Flanagan (Feohanagh/Castlemahon), B Nash (South Liberties), C Lynch (Patrickswell); P Casey (Na Piarsaigh), T Morrissey (Ahane), C Fitzgerald (Claughan).
Subs: T Grimes (Na Piarsaigh) for Byrnes (46), B Murphy (Doon) for Fitzgerald (46), J Porter (Monale-en) for Lyons (55), E Doyle (Monaleen) for Casey (57), C Fanning (Pallasgreen) for Ryan (59).
GALWAY: G Loughnane (Loughrea); D Cronin (Cappataggle), O Coyle (Loughrea), S Roche (Kilnadeema Liatram); R Doyle (Turloughmore), J Holland (Turloughmore), R Bellew (Padraig Pearses); D Nevin (Cappataggle), K McHugo (Tommie Larkins); C Whelan (Kinvara), D Mangan (Kilconieron), S Linnane (Turlough); J Grealish (Gort), B Burke (Killimordaly), C Shaughnessy (Turloughmore).
Subs: C O’Reilly (Liam Mellows) for Holland (27m), S Loftus (Turloughmore) for Doyle (27), S Barrett (Liam Mellows) for Bellew (HT), J Mannion (Cappataggle) for McHugo (39), C Burke (Athenry) for Roche (43).
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).