"He's actually smiling putting the ball over the bar. He should nearly be fainting." - Ryall on Limerick's legacy
Kilkenny's six-time All-Ireland winner James Ryall says that, internally at least, the Limerick hurlers will be desperate to win this year's All-Ireland.
The Graigue Ballycallan club-man contends that, in comfortably beating Waterford and Cork in the last two finals, Limerick will face a sterner test this time around and in making his point, he draws comparisons with the Kilkenny team he played on.
That Kilkenny four-in-a-row team is widely considered as the greatest of all-time but Ryall says that, from a Kilkenny perspective at least, and to really justify themselves as the greatest, the feeling was that they had to regain their title in 2011 having losing the 2010 final to Tipperary.
"When we went in in 2010 and Tipperary beat us," Ryall says on this week's Hurling Show, "even though we'd four All-Irelands won and we went to the last game in the fifth year, right up to 70 minutes away from a five in a row, I think we needed to win in 2011 to justify that team.
"Because, if that was the case then and we lost in 2011 - look we beat Tipp in '09 but luckily enough to beat Tipp, it was a very close game, very little in it, we scored a late goal.
"Tipp were caught in '07 and '08 and if they didn't get caught, how much of a difference would it have made? We would have played Tipp in three finals and lost two. Do you know like, if you go back to the Limerick team there now, they're after beating a Cork in an All-Ireland, which is an absolute cake-walk, Waterford, the year previous, it was another pretty much cakewalk.
"If they end up beating Clare in a Munster final, which they've done, if they end up beating Galway in an All-Ireland semi and let's say Kilkenny were to cause a surprise and over-turn Clare in a semi-final, yeah, you've now beaten a Clare, Galway and a Kilkenny to go win an All-Ireland and I think, I don't mean they have to do that to be justified as a great team, but I think you can sit back and say, three in a row won and we've beaten those three teams."
"They're after beating Cork in an All-Ireland, which is an absolute cake-walk, Waterford the year before, it was another pretty much cake-walk."
James Ryall on why, internally at least, the Limerick hurlers will feel like they have to win this All-Ireland to back up the others. pic.twitter.com/ehhklcanlL
— The GAA Hour (@TheGAAHour) June 28, 2022
The counter-argument, obviously, is that you can only beat what's in front of you but when you're at the level Limerick are at - in the conversation as one of the greatest teams ever - the tests and the barometers get that little bit harder, and that little bit higher.
"I can picture Gearoid Hegarty scoring a point in one of those All-Irelands, near the end of the game, and he's actually smiling putting the ball over the bar. You can see a smile on his face. Like he should be, he should be nearly fainting when he's doing it with pressure, you know what I mean that's what an All-Ireland is. You know, I think we'd have felt, if we'd lost the '11 All-Ireland, we'd have played Tipp in three All-Irelands and lost two, and I think that would have taken the gloss off what we'd have done," he argues.
"I think Limerick would love to bet Galway, and then to beat Kilkenny, and then to have the perfect three-in-a-row."
Paudie Maher was also on The GAA Hour and he took up Ryall's point.
"There wasn't that many other teams competing against Kilkenny back in '06, '07 and '08, they won them All-Irelands fairly handily. Cork obviously were earlier on, but Tipp came along around '09 and ruffled the feathers a bit."
"If we'd have lost in '11, I think it would have glossed it off. And it's the same for Limerick, they're at this high peak now at the moment, but if they don't win this All-Ireland, there will be something taken from them. You can never take a medal from them, don't get me wrong, but win this one, they can put the feet up and relax."
You can listen to the full discussion on this week's show here.