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green party Ruthless Limerick crowned All-Ireland champions as Waterford's wait continues

Limerick 0-30 Waterford 0-19

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Limerick players, from left, Tom Morrissey, Graeme Mulcahy and Adrian Breen celebrate their victory

Limerick players, from left, Tom Morrissey, Graeme Mulcahy and Adrian Breen celebrate their victory

SPORTSFILE

Limerick players, from left, Tom Morrissey, Graeme Mulcahy and Adrian Breen celebrate their victory

Limerick 0-30 Waterford 0-19

TALK about making up for lost time. Limerick spent 45 years waiting for Liam MacCarthy and now they can’t get enough of it.

For the second time in three ultra-consistent seasons, at an empty Croke Park where the roars of the subs could be heard instead of the din of 82,300 fans, John Kiely’s men took home the biggest booty in hurling.

In the process, they delivered a sledgehammer blow to Waterford’s own tantalising All-Ireland dream, now 61 years and counting.

Not for the first time in this Covid year, they were led by their extraordinary half-forward line.

Gearóid Hegarty struck an awesome 0-7 from play, Tom Morrissey wasn’t far behind with 0-5, and even those dozen points don’t do complete justice to their all-action displays.

In between them, Cian Lynch was actually held scoreless but he was a creative menace to an embattled Waterford defence, especially in a first half which finished with the pre-match favourites 0-14 to 0-11 in front.

Liam Cahill’s team may well have been relieved to be within touching distance at the break, but a remorseless Limerick – no one more so than Hegarty – turned the third quarter screw and the contest was effectively over at the second water break, the scoreboard reading 0-24 to 0-16.

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Limerick's Kyle Hayes, Diarmaid Byrnes, Gearóid Hegarty and Darragh O'Donovan celebrate

Limerick's Kyle Hayes, Diarmaid Byrnes, Gearóid Hegarty and Darragh O'Donovan celebrate

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Limerick's Kyle Hayes, Diarmaid Byrnes, Gearóid Hegarty and Darragh O'Donovan celebrate

Closer to goal, Aaron Gillane was magnificent too, frequently out in front of a game Conor Prunty. When he was called ashore on 69 minutes, Gillane had 0-10 in brackets, including four points from play.

At the other end, meanwhile, Waterford were confined to a series of speculative goal attempts from distance and difficult angles, all repelled by the rock-solid Nicky Quaid.

And when the final whistle sounded to secure a ninth All-Ireland for the Treaty men, full-back Dan Morrissey had the ball in hand. A fitting end, given the general dominance enjoyed by their defence.

And, so, Limerick completed the clean sweep at the end of this unprecedented year of hurling in a pandemic.

They have won the lot under Kiely this season: All-Ireland, Munster, Allianz League and even the pre-season Munster Senior League.

They have won every single match to reach this elevated plateau: three games in the Munster League by a cumulative 31 points, all five National League outings by a combined 25 points, and now five championship battles by an overall margin of 37 points.

That’s 13 not out: a record that brooks no argument.

Some might argue they left Liam MacCarthy behind them in last year’s semi-final against Kilkenny. That’s one of those worthless arguments that can never be proven, but no matter: in the last three campaigns Kiely has delivered two All-Irelands, two leagues and two Munsters.

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Jack Fagan of Waterford is surrounded by Limerick players

Jack Fagan of Waterford is surrounded by Limerick players

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Jack Fagan of Waterford is surrounded by Limerick players

All this in a county that hadn’t supped from Liam since 1973. That’s some record of stellar achievement.

Tom Morrissey, Galway’s semi-final tormentor, picked up on the same prolific vein with Limerick’s opening point after just 40 seconds – but the opening minutes still contained a few frissons of defensive anxiety for Limerick, none more obvious than when Neil Montgomery released Jack Fagan through on goal.

But his powerful drive fizzed off target, and Limerick quickly regrouped to double their lead via Séamus Flanagan’s excellent over-the-shoulder point from the left touchline.

The favourites’ fouling proclivities were then punished on the double by Stephen Bennett, from halfway and closer to goal, the second for a Declan Hannon infringement on Dessie Hutchinson that could easily have warranted a yellow.

But, from parity, Limerick turned the screw for the remainder of the quarter. Unanswered points from Morrissey, Aaron Gillane (a sublime touchline effort under pressure from Conor Prunty) and a brace of Gillane frees made it a four-point game.

The latter free, in the 13th minute, came at the end of a dramatic goalmouth escape for the Deise. After winning a Waterford puckout and offloading, Kyle Hayes kept running and the ball was eventually fed back to him by Cian Lynch.

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William O'Donoghue and Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick celebrate

William O'Donoghue and Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick celebrate

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William O'Donoghue and Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick celebrate

Lynch’s angled drive was brilliantly saved by Stephen O’Keeffe, who did even better to recover and block Lynch’s first-time volley on the rebound.

On 21 minutes came a hammer blow for Waterford when Tadhg de Búrca was forced off with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, yet by half-time they were still clinging to Limerick coat-tails.

Four unanswered points on the restart, including two from Flanagan, stretched the gap to seven and, in truth, there was no way back.

Over the course of the 70 minutes, Austin Gleeson hit a handful of eye-catching points from play, a sideline ball and one monster second half free.

But it was never likely to be enough, with so many other Waterford players struggling for oxygen on a day of near-total Limerick domination.

SCORERS

Limerick: A Gillane 0-10 (6f), G Hegarty 0-7, T Morrissey 0-5, S Flanagan 0-3, W O’Donoghue, D Hannon, K Hayes, P Ryan, D Byrnes 0-1 each.

Waterford: S Bennett 0-10 (9f), A Gleeson 0-5 (1 sideline cut, 1f), K Bennett, D Hutchinson, K Moran, C Lyons 0-1 each.

LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Finn, D Morrissey, B Nash; D Byrnes, D Hannon, K Hayes; D O’Donovan, W O’Donoghue; G Hegarty, C Lynch, T Morrissey; A Gillane, S Flanagan, G Mulcahy. Subs: P Casey for Mulcahy (49), D Reidy for O’Donovan (59), P Ryan for Flanagan (63), A Breen for Gillane (69), P O’Loughlin for Hayes (71).

WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; I Kenny, C Prunty, S McNulty; C Lyons, D de Búrca, K Moran; J Barron, K Bennett; N Montgomery, J Prendergast, J Fagan; D Hutchinson, A Gleeson, S Bennett. Subs: I Daly for de Búrca (inj 21), D Lyons for K Bennett (40), C Gleeson for Montgomery (45), P Curran for Moran (52), S Fives for Kenny (55).

REF: F Horgan (Tipperary)

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