Victory for Kilmallock in this Limerick SHC final, and a victory for character, maybe?
That’s no aspersion on their opponents in the Gaelic Grounds yesterday. Patrickswell were in the hunt until the final minutes and will rue a couple of half-chances that could have turned the game their way, but to Kilmallock the spoils, with their manager crediting the players’ character at the final whistle.
“We can all talk about plans and about different tactics in the game,” said Tony Considine.
“But the greatest plan of all is winning the game. That’s the greatest game plan.
“When you’re winning the game or losing the game, that’s when everything comes into play. The character of the players really stood up.”
Considine’s side met the challenge and timed their run superbly in this final. They contained the threat Patrickswell offered in attack and when their goal chance came they took it clinically.
Mind you, the first half was certainly slow to kindle. Both sides had half a glimpse of goal but no more than that, and a green flag would have been a welcome injection of adrenaline. As it was, free takers Micheal Houlihan for Kilmallock and Diarmaid Byrnes of Patrickswell were the main scorers - there was an early flourish from Graeme Mulcahy but Patrickswell’s defence got to grips with him thereafter.
On the balance of play Kilmallock deserved their half-time lead: Houlihan’s fifth point of the half, a late free, meant the men in green and white led by two at the break, 0-11 to 0-9.
“We went out with our plans to nullify some of those players,” said Considine.
“And the lads who got those jobs to do did them very well, but I think we should have been more up at half-time.
“At half-time we said, ‘this is Patrickswell we’re talking about here, a traditional club with the most county titles in Limerick - when we get out there they’re going to come at us like a train’.
“And they did.”
Patrickswell were certainly better in the third quarter of the game. Cian Lynch moved to midfield in an effort to get him more involved in the game, and their forwards enjoyed a touch more freedom - Aaron Gillane got a touch on brother Jason’s sideline cut and hit the post, and ten minutes into the second half the ‘Well led by three, 0-15 to 0-12.
They kept their noses in front to the second water-break, 0-16 to 0-15, when Considine laid down the challenge to his men: “At the last water break I said to our lads, ‘your character is going to be tested here again, have ye got it in ye? And they responded in spades.’.”
The last quarter wasn’t quite all Kilmallock, but they got the vital goal. Oisin O’Reilly made ground and finished cleverly on 55 minutes, while Patrickswell lost defender Sean O’Brien to a second yellow in the same passage of play. It was 1-19 to 0-18 and the blue and gold side only added one more point in the remaining minutes, while Kilmallock reeled off five points, with man of the match Mulcahy hitting one of them, fittingly enough.
In the whirl of victory, with the music pumping in the Gaelic Grounds, Considine remembered the crucible where victory was forged.
“We were here in the Gaelic Grounds the night we played Ballybrown, and they were seven points up on us twice - we were dead and buried, you could say.
“And we came back each time without scoring a goal to win by a point, and I said to Rory Gantley (selector) going out the gate, ‘this is the night we’ll win the championship’. It’s the game I go back to all the time because really our backs were to the wall, and they showed tremendous character.
“And when you show that kind of character you have a chance of winning.”
Kilmallock now face into the Munster club championship - they await the Cork champions, but Considine and co will consider that another day.
“I didn’t even think about that. I couldn’t even talk about it. We have a break and we need a break, we need to get away from it but it was all about today and nothing else.”