All-Ireland final weekend is All-Ireland final weekend, hurling’s biggest day.

Maybe we all have enhanced appreciation for the small pleasures of life after nearly a year and a half without normality. I just know I was delighted to hit Clancy’s in Cork City for a drink on Friday night after we did the Examiner podcast. This house is superbly run by Michael ‘Sully’ O’Sullivan, a fellow Clare native.

It was brilliant to have a few simple pints with Mark [Landers], TJ [Ryan] and Seánie McGrath, our guest for that live episode — and what better place to have those pints than somewhere like Clancy’s, which was alive with all sorts of Corkness. I might have even chanced a Beamish!

The whole county was pushed up on a high, after the U20s roared home against Galway on Wednesday for two in a row. There was a fair bit of confidence too about how the minors would get on the following evening against the same opposition.

One phrase kept coming into my mind. The red tide, the Rebel tide… Clancy’s seemed to be swimming in it.

Up with me to Dublin the next morning and the rain, when I got there, was only biblical. It was one of the most savage deluges I have ever seen. The atmosphere was funny. Rain nearly throws every expectation into doubt. I read about people having to be rescued by gardaí from flooded cars.

I obviously watched the Cork minors go at it with Galway on Saturday evening. They were mightily impressive, seriously impressive, and not just for winning by 14 points. They are one of the best minor teams I have ever seen, even though the grade is now U17.

Funny enough, I big time rate Tiernán Leen and Matthew Tarpey, Galway full back and Galway corner back. They actually did well, under massive pressure, and probably gave Jack Leahy and Eoin O’Leary, two of Cork’s biggest prospects, the toughest time they experienced all year.

But 14 points is a humdinger of a win. That phrase wouldn’t go away. The red tide, the Rebel tide… Then I woke up the next morning and somehow had a different feeling. I was thinking about John Kiely and the Limerick camp. I started thinking that maybe the fuss around the Cork U20s and minors was playing right into his alley, that he might be able to turn all the fuss into an advantage for them.

I could imagine Kiely sending out a message in the group WhatsApp: ‘Their red tide might be coming, but it’s not arriving tomorrow.’ That Limerick group is so tight, so watertight, you could send on that class of a message, no problem. No one outside would ever see it.

Whatever got sent or not sent, Limerick completely demolished Cork at senior. There seemed a kind of bitter intensity to the way they took on Cork: ‘Right boys, we’ll show ye who’s boss now.’

Limerick beat them in pretty much every position and they beat them just as much on the sideline. Cork were very much outsiders with the bookies and in most people’s thoughts — but I don’t reckon too many felt it would be a 16-point victory, which could easily enough have been a 26-point victory.

Limerick simply wiped out Cork all over the place, and the cold hard reality will go on carrying implications long after this weekend. To be honest, I couldn’t understand how Cork’s management went about dealing with some of the major threats facing them.

Cian Lynch is Limerick’s supremo, the conductor of their orchestra. To have any chance, you must keep him some way quiet. Keeping him some way quiet, at this stage, would seem to require a man marker.

John Kiely and Paul Kinnerk learned from that surprise defeat to Kilkenny in 2019, learned that Lynch is more easily man marked if he is a midfielder. That day, Conor Browne did the best job on Cian Lynch we have seen in the last four seasons.

Now Lynch mainly operates from centre forward, which poses a different problem. Your centre back obviously cannot leave the whole central channel open at the back. He can’t come out and mark Lynch. So you really need to pick someone, a specific midfielder or a specific half forward, who can travel and track Lynch, spoil him.

The Cork management did not seem to have a plan for Lynch. So he moved around and grooved around, and had a massive impact, scoring six points himself and setting up two goals.

Someone described him to me last week as “the Messi of hurling”. I could not agree more. Cian Lynch is absolutely flying it, the finest hurler in the country by a distance. He should take home his second ‘hurler of the year’ award in a few months’ time.

Kyle Hayes arrived into this final with a nice chance of being hurler of the year himself. He did grand and more than paid his way, but I don’t think there is any doubt after Lynch’s display about who is the best in the business at this moment.

Look, I made plenty of mistakes myself on the sideline. Hands up, no problem. As Dublin manager in 2013, I should have taken off Ryan O’Dwyer at half time against Cork in that All-Ireland semi-final, because he was on a yellow. It was a mistake on my part and we paid the price when Ryan got a second yellow, and we lost a winnable game by five points.

However, I simply couldn’t understand some of the Cork decisions on the line. Why did they start Conor Cahalane on William O’Donoghue, one of the physically strongest men ever to catch a hurley? And what did putting Darragh Fitzgibbon to wing forward on Diarmaid Byrnes achieve?

Up in the media box, I just couldn’t figure out those moves. Then at half time, when four of their six backs could have been subbed, they brought on Damien Cahalane at midfield for his brother. If so, why not start Damien on O’Donoghue? It would have been a far better match up, if only in physical terms.

I am not taking a jot from Limerick’s performance. They were beyond awesome and were never going to be beaten. The frightening thing for everyone else is guessing when they will peak. They are not there yet. We would probably, only for that loss to Kilkenny in 2019, be looking at the prospect of a hurling five in a row next year.

As it is, we could still see Dublinesque football levels of domination from this crew. Who would bet against them for 2022, even at this stage? Or for 2023? That’s the wind they’re putting up everyone.

I can’t begrudge them in the slightest, though. They are really good lads, the Limerick lads, solid out. The Morrisseys, Cian Lynch, Kyle Hayes, Aaron Gillane, Declan Hannon, Seán Finn, the whole lot of them. They love hurling. They live for hurling. I wouldn’t know them terribly well, but I know the vibe with them.

Limerick know now they can achieve things in the game rarely achieved before — or maybe never achieved before. In a way, it’s in their own hands. Limerick are gone that sort of good.

Myself and Henry [Shefflin] ran into the Morrissey brothers [Dan and Tom] as they were heading down to be interviewed afterwards. I started messing with them, saying that Henry was praying Limerick wouldn’t get more than the 3-30 Kilkenny threw over against Waterford back in 2008, that he was savage when Pat Ryan pointed for the 3-31.

But only a joke. Henry really admires this Limerick team. He knows exactly how serious an outfit they have become.

I said to the Morrisseys that I was delighted to see Barry Murphy get a run, because I had Barry with me when I was over the Limerick minors. Dan came back to me saying that Barry had been burning it up in training and could nearly have started.

So John Kiely rewarded him for that effort. I immediately thought of the philosophy Brian Cody brought when Kilkenny were ripping it up after the mid-noughties. Training form was king, and Kiely has obviously gone the same road. There can be no complacency.

So everything is falling into place for Limerick, on and off the field. They have the talent and they have the cool heads to guide the talent.

Cork will need a rethink, once their disappointment falls back and recordings are analysed. A lot of their young lads, on the day, did not fire. Their defence will need a rethink. More than half of the starting six were cleaned out.

No, it’s a green tide we are looking at — and maybe for a fair while longer. Begrudgery is irrelevant.

They are now one of the best ever hurling teams, the best for definite since Henry’s Kilkenny.

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