“Getting the heads right” will be crucial if Limerick are to buck the dreadful All-Ireland semi-final record of recent Munster champions, according to Treaty midfielder Cian Lynch. Limerick’s reward for their Munster final thumping of Tipperary is a four-week layoff, a welcome break following five games in six weeks.
The month off isn’t quite as long as the five weeks afforded to provincial winners under the old format, but Limerick will be keenly aware of how many of the teams who went before them failed to back up Munster success with an All-Ireland title. The Tipperary class of 2016 are the only side since John Allen’s Cork in 2005 to follow Munster silverware with All-Ireland glory. More damning still is the eight years since a Munster Championship winning county won their subsequent All-Ireland semi-final, this being when Tipperary overcome Dublin in 2011.
Nickie Quaid, Declan Hannon, Graeme Mulcahy, and Shane Dowling, all four of whom featured on Sunday, were part of the last Limerick panel which attempted to negotiate the break between Munster success and an All-Ireland semi-final. Current panellists Richie McCarthy, Paul Browne, Tom Condon, and Kevin Downes were also part of that 2013 setup which fell rather limply to Clare at Croke Park after overcoming Cork in the Munster decider, and no doubt their input will be sought over the coming weeks to ensure there is no repeat at the end of this month.
“It is just about getting the heads right,” said midfielder Cian Lynch of the task ahead.
For us as players, yes, we won Munster, but it is about getting our heads back during the week and then looking forward to the All-Ireland semifinal.
"That is where you want to be. If we don’t drive on again, it won’t be a success. We have to keep going, keep driving each other on.”
The 23-year-old is confident that competition for places will keep every player on their toes. Dan Morrissey may have worn the number seven shirt at the Gaelic Grounds, but Paddy O’Loughlin’s stock has risen significantly following a number of assured displays at left-half-back during theround-robin stages. Will O’Donoghue’s form at midfield has kept 2018 first-team regular Darragh O’Donovan out of the side, while Seamus Flanagan, now back to full fitness, will continue his bid to reclaim a berth in the full-forward line.
“The All-Ireland semi-final is four weeks away. It will be a hard three weeks in training,” said Lynch. “We saw the likes of Barry Nash, Seamus Flanagan, Darragh O’Donovan, and Shane Dowling coming in here. Lads will keep putting their hands up, so it is about keeping going and keeping the work-rate up.”
That work-rate was central to inflicting on Tipperary their heaviest Munster final beating since 1942. Typifying this was the build-up play which led to Kyle Hayes’ goal on 55 minutes — Hayes blocking down an attempted Brendan Maher clearance before Peter Casey flicked the sliotar off James Barry’s hurl as the latter went to emerge from defence.
“The lads were phenomenal there, from Nickie Quaid right throughout the defence. Our forwards just worked crazy. Working hard does reap rewards,”
said Lynch. Having won All-Ireland and league medals in the past 11 months, the 2018 Hurler of the Year was delighted to complete the set on Sunday.
“The last year and a half has been an absolute dream come true for a lot of us. A lot of us back in 2013 were sitting where the Limerick minors were sitting today, watching Limerick contest the Munster senior final after our own Munster minor final had ended in a draw. We witnessed the same scenes, the crowds gather around the pitch. It is something special.
“I know after the All-Ireland final last year was extra special, but this keeps topping it up, keeps people happy. The boom is back in Limerick.”