Limerick captured their first All Ireland title in 45-years in dramatic fashion yesterday as they dethroned reigning champions Galway.
The Treaty men were leading at eight points at one stage in the game and looked to have the win sealed when Tom Morrissey scored their second goal on the 54th minute. However, late goals by Joe Canning and Conor Whelan helped to reduce the gap to just one. The Portumna man had an opportunity to level the game with a last second, long-range free but his effort dropped short. At the final whistle, the people of Limerick could barely believe that the drought was over and manager, John Kiely was no different.
“It’s surreal. I have a real feeling someone is going to shake me and wake me, that it hasn’t all been a crazy dream.”
“But I think the fact of the result, that it was hard-earned makes it all the more special. We withstood that onslaught that came, not in the first twenty minutes, but in the last twenty minutes. The storm was a little late, but God, it was tough.”
“Only these lads know how tough it was, they were winning those vital balls at vital stages, the closing minutes.”
Though it seemed inevitable that the game would go to a draw when Canning stood over the late free, Kiely insisted that he was calm, confident that the fighting spirit in his players could withstand the late onslaught.
“He has done it on so many days for Galway. I don’t think anybody would cast any aspersions on him. He has been a phenomenal hurler, a phenomenal leader. Just an incredible hurler, one for the ages and I don’t think anyone should hold that shot against him, that’s for sure.”
“We did what we needed to do. There was no mystery about it. There was no tactical conundrum that we had to solve, it was wanting it badly enough and waiting until the time came to engage with the battle.”
While the celebrations began in the dressing room, the Galbally native admitted that he was apprehensive about the impending homecoming in the Gaelic Grounds given the level of attention the team would receive.
“There’s a county and generations of people who’ve left that county who are just so proud and so happy with what has been achieved here today and we’re delighted for them. But it isn’t easy being cast in the middle of all that.”
“We have to try and look after these lads. They’ve to be as good in their quest to be successful as in their ability to deal post-success, in terms of how they carry themselves now as All Ireland champions.”