Diarmuid O’Sullivan: Our top players deserve better than this

It was a tough weekend for rule-makers and rule-enforcers!

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I’ve faced Kilkenny many times before and on Saturday Limerick got them in full battle mode.

They were relentless and absolutely ferocious at the same time. Only Brian Cody would get that out of them.

Look down at all the players in the squads they’ve had under Brian Cody during his long reign and they were as savage last Saturday as they have ever been.

On various occasions, they smothered Limerick’s ball carriers in possession – it was almost Tyrone-esque!

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Third-quarter blitz

You’ll also get work rate, pressure and intensity from Kilkenny, but I haven’t seen their hurling as sharp, crisp and calculated in a long time. That gets overlooked by the ferocity they brought to the game.

Why were Limerick shooting off the back foot a lot of the time? That was the pressure they were under from a well-executed plan from Kilkenny.

Limerick only converted 10 of their 25 chances from open play.

Even when they got it back to a point-game, Kilkenny responded and pushed it back out to five points again. Kilkenny won the game in the third quarter, just like they did to Cork.

In that period, the unselfishness and the hunger that TJ Reid, Cillian Buckley, Huw Lawlor, Walter Walsh, Conor Fogarty, Padraig Walsh and Colin Fennelly showed for battle was immense. Limerick couldn’t replicate it on the other side.

People say “Kilkenny don’t do tactics”. Those people are very naive if they think that’s true.

I will say this though, Limerick lost nothing in defeat. They were gallant All-Ireland champions, who fought until the end to keep their crown.

This loss doesn’t define their legacy, they’ll most certainly be back at the top of the game next year.

Flying Fennelly

Colin Fennelly was Kilkenny’s get out of jail card for a lot of the game.

He spent 90 per cent of the time on his own, inside 30 yards from the Limerick goal. That’s a structure of Kilkenny’s game plan.

If you have a guy isolated like that high up the field, you want him to hold the ball up and not take the wrong option.

Fennelly never does something stupid with possession.

He waits for the supports and brings lads around him into play. He showed unbelievable leadership last Saturday, on top of scoring 1-03 and being fouled for a number of frees.

That’s what experience gets you, that nous how to win when it comes to the crunch. His performance for Kilkenny was exceptional.

How can you miss that?

As a former full-back myself, I’d be very disappointed to have Aaron Gillane’s penalty given against me.

It was very soft and you’d be hopping mad.

Even worse was what was to follow. How the officials clearly missed Gillane striking the penalty a yard and a half over the 21-yard-line is beyond me.

The Anthony Nash rule on the penalty with only the keeper in goal has been made very clear, you cannot cross the 21-yard-line to strike the ball.

It was evident that Gillane stepped over the line and if his foot is over the line then the ball has to be as well. Thankfully, it didn’t come down to that decision, but it could have.

Why are we accepting such poor standards?

Let’s not dress this up, the standard of refereeing hasn’t improved all year.

There were massive errors by refs in both games over the weekend. Is that acceptable for our players, who have put in so much time and effort into it?

Players who have got themselves into position to play in two All-Ireland semi-finals only to have to deal with poor decisions.

Terrible officiating is leaving our players down.

Our players deserve better than this. You can’t stand over some of the calls that were made last weekend.

Limerick have every right to be aggrieved over the wide ball decision at the end of the game. The minute the ball was struck from the sideline I shouted “touched”.

I think everyone in the ground saw it was touched by Cillian Buckley. The umpire and the linesman have to take the blame.

The umpire has to know that ball changed course.

Who else would of have touched it? The pigeons flying around Croke Park?

The linesman was nearly 10 yards on the wrong side of the ball too. The frustrations of the players with this stuff must be getting to boiling point at this stage.

We were told by Brian Gavin in the Examiner at the start of the year, that this was a fairly low standard for hurling referees at the moment and we are just going to have to accept it until they get better.

That’s like going into your job, only half doing it and then expecting your boss to be okay with that. It just wouldn’t happen.

The GAA knew this issue was coming when a few of the better intercounty refs were getting up in age, so I’m wondering why weren’t these young guys progressed earlier instead of this void we seem to be in now. The quality of referees really needs to get back to what we are used to.

Maybe the GAA should go out and try to get James McGrath back on board.

He’s an experienced official, they should be looking at all options to improve the standard at the moment.

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What do you think?