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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Pat Nolan

'You were replacing a leader with a leader,' says Limerick boss John Kiely on Will O'Donoghue switch

Limerick 2-24 Galway 1-18

If Limerick’s performance was impressive, so too is the tightness of their group. Nothing gets out.

Ahead of this All-Ireland semi-final, there were all sorts of permutations flying around as to how they would adjust their defence without injured captain Declan Hannon.

Rumour had it that Cian Lynch had been trialled at centre-back. Or would Dan Morrissey move out from full-back? Kyle Hayes could shift in from the wing, maybe?

The prospect of William O’Donoghue playing there hadn’t got any traction, but it was obviously something that was worked on at length in-house. Yet, the first inkling to the outside world that it was a possibility came with O’Donoghue warming up in a pod with half-backs Diarmaid Byrnes and Hayes ahead of the throw-in.

Limerick’s William O'Donoghue and Kyle Hayes celebrate after the game (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

“For us, we had to have a conversation,” said Limerick boss John Kiely. “We had to go away and reflect for a period of time.

“We also knew we needed to make the decision pretty quickly. And once we got back on the training field and got into the serious work that we needed to have it ready to go. It was a brief enough conversation.

“We went with it and we said, ‘Let's go’. You were replacing a leader with a leader. And a guy who is very experienced with another very experienced player.

“William has played six for his club on numerous occasions. And we have seen him play six for his club on numerous occasions.

“You just have to put faith in your gut and in your instinct, and just go with it. And the entire group bought into it straight away.”

And they kept it to themselves while they were at it.

Although it was very comfortable in the end, Limerick had to draw on all of their resilience to pull themselves out of this one.

In the 25th minute, with their defence struggling to come to terms with Galway’s dynamism, Limerick were 1-12 to 1-6 behind as Evan Niland slotted his seventh free of the day, an ominously high tally that early in the game. But he only scored two more, which says much about how Limerick warmed to the task at hand.

They’ve been eking out results over this Championship campaign and last year’s, but facing a six-point deficit in a high-stakes encounter while minus some key players was really throwing down the gauntlet to them. If they had been softened by any of their success, it would surely have manifested.

Instead, their response was emphatic as they outscored Galway by 1-18 to 0-6 for the rest of the game and controlled every department in the second half to move within 70 minutes of just the third four-in-a-row in hurling history.

Aaron Gillane netted Limerick’s first goal in the fifth minute but Galway bossed the game from there with Brian Concannon dropping deep to good effect and Conor Whelan posing numerous problems for both Barry Nash and Mike Casey.

Cathal Mannion’s brilliant 15th minute goal gave Galway a deserved four-point lead and it was out to six 10 minutes later.

At that juncture, Limerick ‘keeper Nickie Quaid hit the deck for treatment rather than restart from a puckout, a clever trick which Galway boss Henry Shefflin said halted his side’s momentum.

“Of course it did, we were all shouting,” said Shefflin. “There’s no doubt about it, it did, but that shouldn’t impact, to be fair.

“They obviously just reset a little bit, they dragged loads of bodies out to the middle and just left Aaron or Seamus up top on their own because they are so powerful around that middle.

“Everybody knows that, you have to go out and play against it, but obviously they have the experience and the guile and they have the hurlers as well.”

More hurtful to Galway than Quaid’s gimmick was Concannon’s 30th minute goal effort which struck Mike Casey’s stick. A goal would have put Galway eight up; instead Darragh O’Donovan pointed at the other end and it was back to four.

By half-time, it was just one (1-13 to 1-12) and the break didn’t do anything to sway the momentum of the game back in Galway’s favour.

Limerick went in front in the 40th minute and though Gillane’s second goal seven minutes later only put them four up, the game was effectively over such was Limerick’s dominance all around the field.

Yet again, the Patrickswell man had made a decisive contribution.

Limerick's Aaron Gillane celebrates scoring his side’s second goal with David Reidy (©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

"Yeah listen, he's been in super, super form,” said Kiely of Gillane. “He's in the shape of his life and he's just in a really, really good space. He has such fast hands, he's good in the air and good on the ground, left and right.

"He's a really, really top class player, a good forward. But he'll still come out of today saying there were a couple of chances that got away from him, a couple of shots from play that got away from him so there's always something that you'll feel that could have gone a bit better.”

If they can extract improvement from him and others on the back of this showing, they will surely take their place alongside Cork 1941-44 and Kilkenny 2006-09 as the game’s greatest, though Kiely typically played down that prospect.

“They don’t need any further success to demonstrate to them or me or anybody else that they are a great team,” he insisted. “They have been a fantastic bunch of men. They are, and will continue to be, a fantastic bunch of men, no matter what happens.”

LIMERICK: Nickie QUAID 7; Barry NASH 7, Dan MORRISSEY 8, Mike CASEY 6; Diarmaid BYRNES (0-3f) 7, William O’DONOGHUE 7, Kyle HAYES (0-2) 8; Darragh O’DONOVAN (0-1) 8, Cian LYNCH (0-1) 7; Gearoid HEGARTY (0-2) 6, David REIDY (0-1) 7, Tom MORRISSEY (0-2) 7; Peter CASEY (0-2) 6, Aaron GILLANE (2-6, 0-5f) 8, Seamus FLANAGAN (0-2) 7.

Subs: Cathal O’Neill (0-1) for Tom Morrissey (56), Graeme Mulcahy (0-1) for Peter Casey (67), Conor Boylan for Hegarty (68), Adam English for O’Donovan (70+2), Oisin O’Reilly for Flanagan (70+2).

GALWAY: Eanna MURPHY 7; Jack GREALISH 6, Gearoid McINERNEY 6, Darren MORISSEY 6; Padraic MANNION 6, Daithi BURKE 6, Sean LINNANE 7; Joseph COONEY 6, Ronan GLENNON 6; Cathal MANNION (1-1) 7, Cianan FAHY 6, Brian CONCANNON (0-3) 7; Conor WHELAN (0-3) 7, Kevin COONEY (0-1) 7, Evan NILAND (0-9f) 6.

Subs: Tom Monaghan (0-1) for Glennon (50), Conor Cooney for Linnane (54), Liam Collins for Concannon (63), Fintan Burke for Fahy (67).

REFEREE: James Owens (Wexford).


“We are very disappointed heading back down the road. We brought a lot of fight to last year and that fight went out of it during the second half which is very disappointing.”

Galway manager Henry Shefflin.

STAR MAN - Aaron Gillane (Limerick)

The Patrickswell man has made a decisive contribution to each of Limerick’s last three victories as their season gathers momentum. Hurler of the Year in waiting? A big final should see to it.

AN OTHER - William O’Donoghue (Limerick)

Not the name on everyone’s lips as a potential option at centre-back beforehand but, while he doesn’t have the same authority as Declan Hannon, he did a fine, no-frills job.


LIMERICK: All-Ireland final, July 23.

GALWAY: Their season is over.

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