There’s one thing magical about three in a row. It’s hurling’s Golden Fleece, its Holy Grail, its One Ring, a unprecedented goal requiring an epic quest. And it’s very, very tough to nail down.
nly two groups within the final 60 years have managed a hat-trick, Cork from 1976 to 1978 and Kilkenny from 2006-2008 with one added in 2009 for good measure. Ten different groups have gained back-to-back titles earlier than discovering the following step past them.
In the present day Limerick will both be part of a gang of three or a band of 11. The other ways the latter have fallen brief exhibits the assorted pitfalls which may derail the seek for a 3rd title.
Three earlier groups got here inside one sport of three in a row; Kilkenny in 2004, Cork in 2006 and Kilkenny once more in 2016. Their paths to the ultimate have been strikingly comparable, with all exhibiting indicators of weariness.
In 2004 Kilkenny misplaced to Wexford and drew with Clare earlier than making the ultimate. In 2016 they have been held to a draw within the semi-final by Waterford. Cork had a 100 per cent document going into the 2006 decider however one-point wins over Limerick and Waterford within the quarter and semi-finals revealed the vulnerability that was finally punished by Kilkenny.
These campaigns might need ominous implications for a Limerick staff who, first held to a draw after which compelled into extra-time by Clare, have discovered issues tough this 12 months. Although maybe they’ll emulate the 1978 Cork staff who acquired their hardest take a look at from Clare within the Munster remaining earlier than accounting for Kilkenny comparatively simply within the All-Eire.
Kilkenny’s 2008 three-in-a-row was achieved in essentially the most imperious fashion with their annihilation of Waterford within the remaining finishing a marketing campaign when their common profitable margin was 17 factors. Brian Cody’s facet didn’t encounter any actual difficulties until Tipperary pushed all of them the best way in 2009.
That staff was so nice that 4 in a row was their three in a row.
Not till Limerick’s 16-point win over Cork final 12 months did we witness as dominant a remaining efficiency as Kilkenny’s 23-point victory over Waterford. Having virtually matched Cody’s Cats for high quality, John Kiely’s facet now bid to attract nearer to them by way of amount.
Nothing extra clearly illustrates the difficulties of finishing a hat-trick than the truth that in all probability the second best staff of the final 60 years, the Tipperary facet of the early to mid-Nineteen Sixties, couldn’t handle to take action.
After they’d lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1961 and ‘62, their defeat by Waterford in ‘63 stays the best of all Munster remaining shocks. It might sound that round-robins and qualifiers make a number of titles tougher to achieve, but that outcome exhibits the opposite facet of the coin. The straight knockout system meant one below-par efficiency might spell curtains.
Had there been a again door, Tipp would virtually actually have gained in 1963, one thing they proved by totally dominating the ’64 and ’65 championships, profitable all their video games by double-figure margins. But a fair better shock awaited them as they went for 3 in a row in ’66. Limerick’s 4-12 to 2-9 win, with a 21-year-old Eamonn Cregan scoring 3-5, was a chief instance of how an excellent staff’s demise can generally be compressed right into a single 70 minutes.
The good three-in-a-row-seeking Kilkenny staff’s 17-point loss to Wexford within the 1976 Leinster remaining is an much more spectacular instance.
These defeats spelt the tip of an period and the upcoming break-up of an excellent staff, as did Wexford’s 19-point defeat by Kilkenny within the 1957 Leinster remaining. Kilkenny’s shock loss to Wexford in ’84 presaged a nine-year hole between All-Eire victories. The facet which ended that famine by Noreside requirements in 1992 added one other title in ’93 earlier than, like their predecessors, coming a cropper within the Leinster semi-final, this time towards Offaly.
Galway and Cork provide the very best examples of how soul-destroying it may be to narrowly miss out on three in a row. Dubiously disadvantaged of Tony Keady’s providers beforehand, Galway misplaced the rag within the 1989 All-Eire semi-final towards Tipperary, but solely misplaced by three factors regardless of being diminished to 13 males. The reminiscence of what might need appeared to hold over Galway for a very long time. It could be 29 years earlier than they added one other All-Eire to the two-in-a-row victory of 1988.
Dónal Óg Cusack’s current complaints concerning the size of the grass within the 2006 remaining present simply how a lot that defeat continues to rankle with the Rebels. It started a decline which has led to the longest spell with out an All-Eire within the county’s historical past.
Limerick’s staff are youthful than most three-in-a-row seekers, so defeat right this moment would hardly spell the tip for them. But, like many nice sides, a sure aura of invincibility is a vital a part of their armoury. A loss right this moment would scale back them to extra human dimensions within the eyes of their rivals.
Issues have been more durable for the champions this 12 months. The absence of Cian Lynch has undoubtedly diminished their effectiveness and their most spectacular sectors throughout earlier campaigns — the half-forward line and midfield — have been subdued.
Tom Morrissey has been comparatively quiet whereas Gearóid Hegarty appears adversely affected by maybe unfair scrutiny of his taking part in fashion. They’ve struggled to seek out the correct place for Kyle Hayes, although a change again to quantity 11 labored wonders within the semi.
The beforehand commanding centrefield pairing of Will O’Donoghue and Darragh O’Donovan has been largely out of kinds. Limerick have relied on different areas as a substitute. The complete-back line, as soon as considered as a potential weak spot, has turn into a bulwark with Barry Nash and Mike Casey having the seasons of their lives. Seán Finn and Diarmaid Byrnes have confirmed their all-time greatness, whereas Aaron Gillane has turn into the sport’s undisputed primary ahead.
Prior to now two years Limerick have saved the very best wine until final. Can they do this once more or will the damage and tear of 5 years on the highway lastly compensate for them?
A win right this moment will make them maybe the second best staff of all-time, they usually can begin pondering of catching up on the best. But when they lose they’ll be the most recent staff the search for 3 in a row will divulge to be nice however not among the many very best.
Seventy minutes away from immortality, Limerick go into battle with extra strain on their shoulders than ever earlier than.
It’s a day for courageous males and history-makers.