Limerick whip up a frenzy

The clock read 58 minutes when thousands of jubilant Limerick supporters, having rolled down from the Ryan and Kinane Stands, occupied every blade of grass on either sideline at Semple Stadium.

The scoreline read Limerick 0-22, Wexford 1-7. The county had waited 13 years for an All-Ireland hurling crown. The final few minutes would prove the longest. Gardaí and stewards were forced inside the whitewash in the final minutes to prevent Treaty supporters from encroaching the pitch. Indeed, when Diarmaid Byrnes scored his second point, several green-clad fans reached out to offer their congratulations, as the captain returned to his right half-back berth.

Three more points would follow from Cian Lynch, Peter Casey and Tom Morrissey, before Johnny Ryan’s whistle sounded. Semple Stadium descended into a sea of green within seconds. John Kiely’s young masters had raged the perfect storm in front of 18,554 souls, 13 years of hurt and disappointment ended by an hour of complete hurling.

“I thought I was going to be swarmed before the final whistle blew,” said Byrnes of the frenzied scenes approaching the finish. “You can see what it means. We’re not blessed in glory or silverware. When we do get it, it means a lot to us.”

Surrounded by hundreds of young Limerick supporters, the 21-year old glanced down at the Cross of Cashel trophy between his feet — the iconic trophy handed over for the last time on Saturday evening.

“It is an honour to be the last man to receive this trophy before it is retired. Here we are, All-Ireland champions, thank God,” Byrnes said. Two hours earlier, he had been the first green shirt to emerge from underneath the Kinane Stand. For the team photograph, he was flanked by the two players with whom he would solider in the half-back line, Gearoid Hegarty and Barry O’Connell. These three men were crucial to this emotional victory.

From early, Wexford were grasping at their opponent’s coattails. When they pushed forward, their deliveries were aimless and easily mopped up by the aforementioned trio.

On 24 minutes, centre-back, Pádraig Foley, hammered the sliotar in the direction of Conor McDonald. Barry O’Connell cut out the pass and, had he not, Hegarty had positioned himself 10-yards behind to make the interception. On 30 minutes, McDonald drifted outfield to fetch an Oliver O’Leary puck-out, one of the few won by JJ Doyle’s side. Quickly swallowed up by three Limerick shirts, the full-forward conceded possession. Cian Lynch pounced, soloed 40-metres down the field and split the posts. Limerick were tuned in.

At the other end, the vast amount of space between their two-man full-forward line and deep-sitting half-forward line was exploited through clever distribution and intelligent movement. On almost each occasion that wing-forwards Barry Nash and David Dempsey collected possession, either Tom Morrissey, Cian Lynch or Pat Ryan was to be found on their shoulder seeking the off-load — the latter three shooting 0-3 apiece.

Even allowing for Ronan Lynch’s disallowed goal after 11-minutes — Johnny Ryan had blown for an earlier free — the Munster champions were 0-8 to 0-2 in front by the 18th minute. Nash had stamped his name all over proceedings by this juncture, the right half-forward sniping three white flags. Wexford’s defenders, Liam Ryan, Jack O’Connor and Foley, were too busy fanning the flames of such raging fires to be concerned with peppering their attack with quality ball.

They required the assistance of a sweeper and when it did arrive, at the outset of the second-half — corner-forward, Cathal Dunbar, dropped back on Lynch to free up Simon Donohoe — the damage had already been done. 0-11 to 0-4 they trailed — Kevin Foley’s disallowed goal, on 28 minutes and an 18-minute barren spell did not help their cause. Midfield pair, Tony French and Conor Devitt, were withdrawn by the 41st minute, yet another sector where they were overrun.

Conor McDonald scored a goal on 51 minutes, to cut the deficit to 0-17 to 1-7. The winners responded with nine points without reply. And while substitute, Peter Casey, opted for a point from a 57th-minute penalty, it was the build-up, involving Morrissey and Nash, that encapsulated this Limerick effort. Even with three minutes remaining and the result long since wrapped up, they refused to ease up. “We got the fright of our lives when Limerick brought that intensity — we hadn’t seen anything like it,” said Wexford’s Eoin Conroy. “The one thing we said going out was that we didn’t want to have any regrets. But that dressing room is full of them.”

Scorers for Limerick:

R Lynch (0-6, 0-5 frees); B Nash (0-5); T Morrissey (0-4); P Casey (0-1 pen), P Ryan, C Lynch (0-3 each); D Byrnes (0-2, 0-1 free).

Scorers for Wexford:

C McDonald (1-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 sc); P Foley (0-1 free), A Kenny, C Dunbar (0-1 each).

LIMERICK:

D McCarthy (Glenroe); S Finn (Bruff), R English (Doon), M Casey (Na Piarsaigh); D Byrnes (Patrickswell), B O’Connell (Kildimo Pallaskenry), G Hegarty (St Patrick’s); D O’Donovan (Doon), P Ryan (Doon); B Nash (South Liberties), C Lynch (Patrickswell), D Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh); T Morrissey (Ahane), C Ryan (Pallasgreen), R Lynch (Na Piarsaigh).

Subs:

P Casey (Na Piarsaigh) for C Ryan (50), A La Touche-Cosgrave (Monaleen) for P Ryan (52), J Kelliher (Patrickswell) for R Lynch (55), M O’Callaghan (Knockaderry) for Finn (58), J Hannon (Adare) for O’Donovan (59).

WEXFORD:

O O’Leary (Buffers Alley); S Donohoe (Shelmaliers), L Ryan (Rapparees), E Conroy (Naomh Éanna); J White (Oylegate-Glenbrien), P Foley (Crossabeg Ballymurn), J O’Connor (St Martin’s); C Devitt (Ballyfad), T French (Adamstown); A Kenny (Buffers Alley), K Foley (Rapparees), J Cash (Shelmaliers); C Dunbar (Ballygarret), C McDonald (Naomh Éanna), P Sutton (Oulart-The Ballagh).

Subs:

S Murphy (St James’ Ramsgrange) for French (36 mins), S Kenny (Halfway House Bunclody) for Devitt (41), S Kelly (Crossabeg-Ballymurn) for Foley (46), J Firman (St Martin’s) for Cash (47).

Referee:

J Ryan (Tipperary).


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