In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks back on Kilmallock’s Limerick SHC final win over Adare.
From the very start it had the look of a game that would always be close. It was clear, even in the warm up, that Kilmallock looked nervous while Adare took full advantage of their underdog role. County finals have a way of equalising matters and from the very start it was Adare that took this game by the neck and pushed the favourites to the very limit.
If you had been told before the game started that Graeme Mulcahy would not score then you would have given Adare a massive chance but, despite playing poorly for long stages, Kilmallock proved, in the end, to have the players to pull from the fire this game that looked gone from them ten minutes into the second half.
The quality of hurling at times was poor but the fact that the game remained close to the end insured that supporters were always close to the edge of the seat. Despite what we were told, the day proved ideal for hurling, the pitch was in crisp condition and the small crowd of less than five thousand saw a game that hung in the balance right to the end.
Finals are all about winning and while we would all have loved a free flowing game it was not to be. Adare had trained very well over the past few weeks and, to their credit, they had done their homework on Kilmallock, particularly in attack.
The Adare backs played well and the overall work rate of their team saw them control this contest for three quarters of the game. It was interesting to see that Adare gave away one free during the course of the game. Kilmallock found it hard to cope with the close attention and all too often they failed to win clean ball and when they did they lost possession.
One could see that both teams were battling very hard and when Adare look back they will wonder why they failed to score more given that they had played most of the better hurling in the opening half. Only two points separated them at half time and of the 14 scores six had come from frees.
It was clear from an early stage that Adare were really up for the fight, they were winning some vital positions but I was surprised to see Wayne McNamara played at midfield and not centre back where he has had such a good year.
In fairness, Ross Kennedy did nothing wrong but he could have filled the role at midfield and allowed McNamara to make those deep runs from the heart of defence. Young David Dillon was also playing well while Declan Hannon was very much in control against Gavin O’Mahony. Hannon did produce a master display. Adare had some fine scores especially from Hannon but they got very little from their full forward line.
I would have thought that Paul Keane would have given a much needed height advantage at full forward and those around him might well have benefited from such a move. Kilmallock were in trouble in lots of places because many of their better known players were been well hurled.
When the hole was getting ever larger it was young Robert Egan who stood up, this lad worked very hard and with the right effort from himself and the Limerick senior management we may well have found a centre forward. Another man who delivered was Paudie O’Dwyer, he has had a good year and his points kept his team in the mix.
Stephen Lavin was winning the battle against Graeme Mulcahy and overall had a very good game but, in fairness to Mulcahy, he was not helped by the poor quality ball coming into him because the Adare lads were putting their bodies on the line. With ten minutes gone in the second half Adare looked to be in a good position when leading by three points. Diarmuid Sexton had a goal chance and it was during this spell that Adare should have closed this game out. They had chances and didn’t take them and they were to prove costly. Hannon was floating but was still coming up with the odd score. When Adare look back they will see clearly that failing to score for twelve minutes in the second half cost them dearly. Kilmallock, to their credit, worked their way back into the game and by the three quarter stage they had levelled the game at eleven points each. Moving Graeme Mulcahy out the field and playing with a two man full forward line was to play a crucial part in them winning this game.
Eoin Ryan was holding the ball inside and when Jake Mulcahy whipped on a ground ball that went straight to the net it was to be a telling score. Adare had also lost their grip at midfield where Egan and Paudie O’ Brien would contribute five points between them and overall won the battle in this area.
A huge amount of the play in this game was around the middle third and winning clean ball was very hard to do. Adare tried very hard to make up the difference nearing the end but that goal was to prove crucial for Kilmallock. Adare deserve huge credit for the way they improved in the weeks leading up to the game and they came very close to winning yet another County but when it mattered most it was Kilmallock that had the players with that little bit extra that got them over the line.
Many people were very disappointed to see Adare players wearing the wrong jerseys. I am not sure what difference they thought this would make but it was not fair on those who bought programmes. While on the subject of programmes, every second one that I met was disappointed with the book of adverts they got but, moreover, they could not read the subs as the writing was so small.
Not good enough to present the same old tired format of design. Kilmallock are worthy winners and a home draw will make them hard to beat in the Munster club.