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OPINION Limerick hurlers have become true GIANTS of the modern game

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Limerick celebrate their All-Ireland win against Cork. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Limerick celebrate their All-Ireland win against Cork. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

 Limerick players show their delight after their back-to-back All-Ireland victory against Cork. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Limerick players show their delight after their back-to-back All-Ireland victory against Cork. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Limerick celebrate their All-Ireland win against Cork. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

I made an interesting discovery last week.

Under GDPR regulations newspapers are no longer allowed to publish the heights and weights of players in an All-Ireland final.

For decades these biographical details were an integral part of the player profiles which appeared in newspapers on All-Ireland final weekend.

Furthermore, the publication not just of dates of birth but the ages of what are termed an ‘identifiable person’ is also outlawed. If you think I’m joking, then check out Article 4 (1) of the EC General Data Protection Regulations.

Anyway, that’s my excuse for not being able to substantiate my contention that Limerick are the biggest ever team to win either the Liam MacCarthy Cup or the Sam Maguire.

Trust me I have the figures from the 2018 All-Ireland final programme – the new GDPR regulation only came into force the following year. So, I have the statistics to back up my claim – I just cannot share them with you.

Of course, it would be spurious to argue that Limerick’s dominance of hurling – they are the first county to win back-to-back All-Ireland titles since Kilkenny’s last double in 2014-2015 – happened entirely by chance.

Still, it cannot be entirely overlooked that it was a happy coincidence that in a decade when Limerick suffered one agonizing All-Ireland loss to Offaly and later failed to beat 14-man Wexford in another decider, a cohort of male babies, who a quarter of a century later had grown into six-foot-plus men, were born to families with an interest in hurling.

In the hurling hierarchy Limerick are like the fifth Beatle. They consider themselves part of the elite club but in truth they’re not really – at least not since the 1940s.

When the legendary Mick Mackey skippered the Treaty County to the All-Ireland title in 1940 it was their third win in seven seasons and their sixth title in all.

In that year they had already fallen behind the golden trio of Kilkenny (12), Tipperary (12) and Cork (11) and had just drawn level with Dublin in the Roll of Honour.

Since then it has taken Limerick eight decades to reach double figures – they only won the Liam McCarthy once between 1940 and 2018 – that was in 1973.

Dublin have stood still and are still waiting for their first All-Ireland win since 1938. But the big three have disappeared into the distance with Kilkenny out in front on 36, Cork on 30 and Tipperary with 28.

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 Limerick players show their delight after their back-to-back All-Ireland victory against Cork. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Limerick players show their delight after their back-to-back All-Ireland victory against Cork. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Limerick players show their delight after their back-to-back All-Ireland victory against Cork. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Before we get fixated on whether Limerick win the three, four or five in a row, we ought to celebrate what they achieved in Croke Park last Sunday.

Years ago, a coach once suggested that in an All-Ireland final a third of the team will play out of their skin; five will be do ok and five won’t perform on the day.

Limerick didn’t adhere to that rule last weekend. Uniquely, their starting 15 all won their individual battles.

For Cork the outcome was complete carnage on a scale which nobody had envisaged. Perhaps I’m in a minority but I believe their so-called Corkness didn’t help their cause.

Their backroom team is filled with men who have distinguished themselves both as players and coaches, but collectively they had a complete meltdown.

Perhaps it was unintentional, but they gave the impression that they were going to set out their stall and let Limerick worry about them rather than design a game-plan which took cognisance of Limerick’s assets.

How they didn’t designate one player to sacrifice his game and spend the afternoon getting close up and personal with Cian Lynch is beyond belief.

Though it is doubtful whether such a move would have changed the final result, at least the second half wouldn’t have turned into a long yawn for neutral fans.

Still, it’s a joy to see Limerick operate their triangles on the field. It’s as close to total hurling 21st century style as we are ever likely to see.

Their coach Paul Kinnerk is hurling’s version of the famous Dutch football coach Rinus Michels. But unlike Holland who were beaten in successive World Cup finals in the 1970s, Limerick reached the Promised Land.

Kinnerk has now four Liam MacCarthy wins on the CV – he was involved with Clare when they won the 2013 title, having outsmarted Limerick in the semi-final.

John Kiely was a Limerick selector that day and one suspects the steely determination he brings to the Limerick set-up was forged when Limerick were beaten in both the 2013 and 2019 All-Ireland semi-finals.

These are heady times for fans of Limerick.

But the rest of us should live in the moment and enjoy watching their brand of total hurling – even if it is reinforced with steel.

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