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08th Jul 2023

Gillane gets the goals as Galway get sent on the long road home

Niall McIntyre

Limerick 2-24 Galway 1-18

William O’Donoghue doesn’t bend his run going into the dressing room.

He stays on line because, never one to shun a battle, his line is taking him straight into Henry Shefflin. Oh boy.

The Galway manager sees him coming, he’s seen it all before, so he braces for impact and, still got it, he barely moves an inch. O’Donoghue brushes by him, doesn’t even break stride, and Shefflin gazes down the tunnel after him.

It’s a death-stare if ever you’ve seen one.

Shefflin is bulling but if any of the Galway players saw him, seconds later, clenching his fists and raising his two arms to the sky, they’d have been wired to the moon as well.

The Kilkenny man would love to be playing in this second half.

Not to matter, kitted out in those iconic Puma King boots, the ones that have graced this hallowed sod so many times before, he’s pucked every ball of a first half that has everyone in the stadium sitting up. Shefflin needs the breather as much as any of them.

Diarmaid Byrnes turns to the Galway crowd and tells them to be quiet. It’s nine minutes before Shefflin-O’Donoghue, and, ice in a burning room, he’s just nailed the 75 yard free that has reduced the deficit to five points. Yes, Galway have come here to play.

Brian Concannon has come to play, and Conor Whelan has come to play. And boy-oh-boy, Cathal Mannion has come to play.

The Ahascragh-Foghenagh club-man is like Harry Potter. His skills drop jaws and his first half goal, the one that puts Galway three points up, will be hard beaten for finish of the year.

Kevin Cooney did brilliantly, under ferocious pressure, to pick him out with a clever-hopped pass. There’s green grass in front of him.

Mannion looks up for the pass, no pass on. He looks up at the posts. Within seconds, everyone in the stadium is looking down at a shaking net, and a waving flag.

Nickie Quaid can stop bullets but he can’t stop magic.

Jack Grealish and Seamus Flanagan are on the ground fighting. The second half is in full flow and, some things never change, Limerick have rolled into it like a full-blown ball of fire and Galway are only clinging on. Within seconds Cian Lynch has scored their second of the half and Henry Shefflin looks worried, because, suddenly, Limerick are one point up.

The tale of the second half is a tale we’re so familiar with because, here we go again, the Champions have taken no time at all to blow Galway out of the lake.

Suddenly, Conor Whelan has two men for company every time a ball comes near him. It’s like a different game, because Brian Concannon is no longer a player.

Instead, it’s all about the hurlers who have been the best in the country for each big occasion of the last five years. Take your pick, any pick at all, but it all starts and finishes with Aaron Gillane.

So many defenders have tried and failed to contain him this year, you’re swimming against the tide, and today was just another day where, no lesser men than Daithí Burke and Gearoid McInerney joined the long list. If they can’t who can.

Gillane’s first goal was merely a warning.

It was one he could have trademarked and it was one Daithí Burke was unable to stop. But his second, with 45 minutes gone, should have been stopped. Galway got away with it when Gillane’s first-time flick hit the cross-bar but you just have to take these slices of luck and run with them. Especially against Limerick. You don’t give him a second bite of the cherry but Galway did and, from there, they were brown bread.

Casey and Flanagan and O’Donovan pointed the way to a fourth All-Ireland final in four years. The four-in-a-row is well and truly on…

Limerick scorers: Aaron Gillane 2-6 (5f), Diarmaid Byrnes 0-3 (3f), Kyle Hayes, Gearóid Hegarty, Tom Morrissey, Peter Casey, Seamus Flanagan all 0-2, Darragh O’Donovan, Graeme Mulcahy, Cathal O’Neill, David Reidy, Cian Lynch all 0-1

Galway scorers: Evan Niland 0-9 (all frees), Cathal Mannion 1-1, Conor Whelan 0-3, Brian Concannon 0-3, Kevin Cooney, Tom Monaghan both 0-1

LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid; Mike Casey, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes, William O’Donoghue, Kyle Hayes; Darragh O’Donovan, Cian Lynch; Gearoid Hegarty, Tom Morrissey; Aaron Gillane, Seamus Flanagan, Peter Casey. Subs: Cathal O’Neill for Tom Morrissey (56), Graeme Mulcahy for Peter Casey (66), Conor Boylan for Gearóid Hegarty (69), Oisin O’Reilly for Seamus Flanagan, Adam English for Darragh O’Donovan (71)

GALWAY: Éanna Murphy; Jack Grealish, Daithí Burke, Darren Morrissey; Padraic Mannion, Gearóid McInerney, Seán Linnane; Joseph Cooney, Cathal Mannion; Ronan Glennon, Cianan Fahy, Kevin Cooney; Conor Whelan, Brian Concannon, Evan Niland. Subs: Tom Monaghan for Cooney (31-32 Temp), Tom Monaghan for Ronan Glennon (51), Conor Cooney for Sean Linnane (52), Liam Collins for Brian Concannon (63), Fintan Burke for Cianan Fahy (68)

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