2018 was the most unforgettable year for the Limerick
hurlers. The campaign began on December 28, 2017 with a victory over Cork in
the Munster Senior League. Limerick followed this up with wins over Kerry and
Clare to earn a maiden Munster League title.
The National League was up next for John Kiely where after eight years in the second tier of the League, Limerick finally earned promotion to Division 1A, winning each of their five games, including a stunning victory over All-Ireland Champions Galway in Salthill where Limerick found themselves down by nine at the half.
Tipperary would defeat Limerick in the National League semi-final, but Limerick would gain revenge in the opening round of the Munster Championship with a comprehensive six-point victory. Kiely’s side would earn a hard-fought draw in Pairc Ui Chaoimh a fortnight later before booking their place in the All-Ireland series with a win over Waterford in the Gaelic Grounds a week later.
The first setback of the year occurred in Ennis in the final round of Munster where a lacklustre performance saw Limerick miss out on a Munster final spot. Instead they had to travel to Carlow to play a preliminary quarter final where they secured a place in the last six against Kilkenny.
In Thurles against Cody’s side, Limerick deservedly earned a first victory over Kilkenny since 1973. Limerick dominated the game, but Eoin Murphy pulled off several breath-taking saves to deny Limerick throughout the game. Richie Hogan goaled for Kilkenny as they looked destined for the semi-finals before Tom Morrissey scored a brace of majestic points to earn his side a place in the last four.
This set up a semi-final clash against Cork in HQ. Limerick held a slender lead at the break before Cork turned the screw early in the second half to hold a six-point advantage with less than ten minutes of normal time remaining. Limerick would score seven on the bounce before a late Patrick Horgan free sent the game to extra time. In extra-time, goals from substitutes Pat Ryan and Shane Dowling secured Limerick’s place in the All-Ireland final for the first time since ’07.
In the final they would face defending champions Galway. Graeme Mulcahy had the opening half’s only goal as Limerick took a four-point lead in the break after controlling much of the first 35 minutes. The second half followed suit and when Morrissey goaled on 54 minutes Limerick held a nine-point lead.
Galway notched a few scores but Shane Dowling’s 68th
minute goal gave Limerick an eight-point lead. However, with eight minutes of
additional time, Galway showed their resolve and late goals from Joe Canning
and Conor Whelan gave Canning a chance to level the game with a last minute
free from inside his own half.
Canning’s free dropped short and into the grateful hands of Tom Condon who barrelled out of defence as the referee drew 45 years of hurt to a close as Declan Hannon became the first Limerick man to lift Liam McCarthy since 1973.