Tuesday, March 13, 2018

By Eoghan Cormican

Sports Reporter Irish Examiner

From the Limerick team that lined out at Pearse Stadium, only three — Nicky Quaid, Richie McCarthy, and Paul Browne — have been exposed to top-tier league hurling. That’s a damning indictment of the county’s spring form over the past eight years.

By close of business last Sunday, Limerick were back on Broadway. Their come-from-behind victory on the All-Ireland champions’ home patch meant a first run of five successive victories since 2011.

And we’re going all the way back to 2006 for the last occasion Limerick overcame Galway in a league or championship fixture.

Most encouraging of all is the players who guided them over the hurdle which has repeatedly tripped the county up during the past eight years are relative greenhorns at senior inter-county level.

Corner-back Sean Finn, who made his league and championship debuts in 2017, kept Jason Flynn to one point from play.

Finn was even more frugal when All-Star Conor Whelan moved onto him in the second period.

In the other corner, Richie English, who broke onto the Limerick team in 2016, held Niall Burke scoreless.

At the other end of the field, two men who made their league debuts this spring — Aaron Gillane and Seamus Flanagan — contributed 1-12 between them.

Tom Morrissey, an U21 teammate of Gillane and Flanagan last summer, may not have been among the scorers at Salthill but he was so effective in keeping the supply lines fluid to those inside.

Cian Lynch, midfield on Sunday, was another member of last year’s all-conquering U21 team.

And while this is a young and developing Limerick side, 22-year-old Lynch says the performance against Galway was long overdue.

“It is about time we started standing up, getting involved, taking it to teams, instead of waiting for teams to take it to us,” he asserted.

In Lynch’s four years around the senior panel, there’s never been such positive energy within or, indeed, surrounding the camp.

We have never had this kind of momentum. You can see what it means to the Limerick supporters. It has been a long time since Limerick won consistently or won a big game like that. A lot of people expect mothers to be at home enjoying Mother’s Day, but a lot of them were here today. It just shows that Limerick people are passionate people.

“When you are winning or a team is going well, it is nice to see the smiles on the faces. That is what it is about. To see the young supporters, where we were 10 years ago looking up at the older lads, it means a lot.”

Given the county has endured plenty of false dawns through the years, the Patrickswell hurler insists this performance has to be backed up. Next on the agenda is Sunday’s league quarter-final against Clare.

“This is a small step for us. There is no point sitting back, enjoying this and thinking we’re great.

At half-time, we stayed focused. We just stepped up, went into fifth gear. We have to move on again. It is about time we drive on.

Declan Hannon made his league debut for the county in 2011, their first spring in the second tier after relegation in 2010. Eight years of frustration, he reckons, boiled to the surface during the closing stages at Pearse Stadium.

“Seamus Flanagan brought the visitors level for the first time on 59 minutes. Lynch, on 67 minutes, edged them ahead for the first time,” said Hannon.

“You can see what it means to the lads who have been around for the last couple of years and have been hurling away in Division 1B. All that hurt came to the fore in the last 10 minutes to get us over the line. It is a good day for Limerick hurling,” the centre-back proclaimed.

For the collective confidence of this squad, this is an invaluable result.

“It is not easy to come to the home of the All-Ireland champions,” said Hannon.

“That’ll give a good boost to Limerick hurlers, and the supporters who have gone through thick and thin with us for the last number of years. It is hard to tell if this can be a stepping stone to greater things.

“The teams in Division 1A appear to be playing at a higher intensity and skill level. We’re delighted with the win but we know we are going to have to up it again for next weekend. Limerick needs competitive games. We’ll keep trying to get those performances out.”

It is about time we started standing up, getting involved, taking it to teams, instead of waiting for teams to take it to us

PHOTOGRAPH : Limerick’s Graeme Mulcahy and Paul Browne celebrate after their come-from-behind victory over Galway.