Clare, Tipperary, Waterford, Galway, Waterford, Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Cork, Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Clare, Clare, Galway, Kilkenny.

The roll call of counties that Limerick have played in the championship, without losing, since the end of 2019 shows just how impressive their achievement in winning three All-Ireland SHC titles really is.

This was a county that had attracted the tag of ‘nearly-men’ since the victory of 1973. Losing to Kilkenny the following year, they were second-best in 1980 as Galway made the breakthrough and then there was the gut-punch of Offaly’s late show in 1994.

Wexford in 1996 was another tough one to take and, while Kilkenny lived up to their favourites’ billing in 2007 and never gave Limerick a chance, it was nevertheless disappointing for the Shannonsiders.

Not for nothing was Henry Martin’s book on Limerick hurling called Unlimited Heartbreak.

Looking back

Looking back now it’s hard to believe that Limerick were so skittish as Galway ate into their lead in the latter stages of the 2018 final, but John Kiely’s young side were carrying a heavy historical burden.

They came through that though, and look at them now – masters of all they survey.

To put it in context: in hurling history, only the traditional ‘big three’ of Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary have previously managed the three-in-a-row.

Cork (1941-44) and Kilkenny (2006-09) are the only counties to have necklaced four together and, right now, who would bet against Limerick emulating that and extending the 15-game run mentioned at the start, overtaking Kilkenny’s record of 21 championship matches in a row without defeat?

Often, even with the best teams, there is an argument that you can take a particular player out and they would struggle to be as effective.

For Limerick, the touchstone in that regard would surely be Cian Lynch, but that’s exactly what happened this year and they were still able to survive and thrive.

No accident

A team doesn’t come through close battles like the Munster final against Clare, All-Ireland semi-final against Galway and final against Kilkenny by accident.

They have been primed by coach Paul Kinnerk to deal with whatever is thrown at them, no matter what the opposition’s tactics or style are, and they remain standing.

And, while it will be little consolation to Brian Cody – given that he knows what the mountain-top is like and how different the second-highest peak is – Kilkenny deserve huge credit for making Limerick earn the win.

Hannon has done what nobody else has in captaining four All-Ireland-winning teams.

Down by five points early in the first half, they regrouped and responded and it’s worth noting that there were only seven survivors from the last Cats team to play in an All-Ireland final, against Tipperary in 2019.

They will be back, but then so will Limerick – and Lynch, whom captain Declan Hannon invited to collect the cup with him in a lovely touch.

Hannon has done what nobody else has in captaining four All-Ireland-winning teams – a betting person would surely fancy that he’ll make it five.

It’s worth remembering though, that – while Sunday Game pundits may be decrying the congested nature of an inter-county season that began in February – the club action is just around the corner.

Far from being “cold turkey in the middle of a heatwave” as one analyst said, the second course has plenty to nourish us, too.

Galway off to the races

Not so long ago, the joke was that the Galway hurling and football sides couldn’t achieve ultimate success because the scheduling of Galway Races meant they had to be out of the championship to enjoy the festivities.

To that end, the change to the split-season and July All-Ireland finals seems to have done just the trick – while the hurlers had to give way to the imperious Limerick side, the footballers are set to play in the final for the first time in 20 years.

They will be underdogs against a Kerry side that have been landed with the dreaded ‘potential’ tag for half a decade or so now and finally look like delivering on it.

But games played on grass rather than paper tend to throw up more surprises.

It’s worth remembering that last Galway win – their second in four years, with a final replay defeat in between – came against a Meath team that had dismantled Kerry in the semi-final.

Rather than that being a taster for what was to come, it proved to be the last truly great performance of the Seán Boylan era.

Kerry came through a superb semi against Dublin, but don’t under-estimate what that took out of them.

Ten and a half months ago, it seemed like Mayo’s time had finally come, but Tyrone ignored the script. It would be a surprise if Galway were to do the same, but it wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of possibility.

Try, try again

One by-product of the shortening of the GAA season means that big games are clashing with huge events in other sports.

That, the necessary early kick-off times and the fact that it was televised on Sky rather than RTÉ or Virgin Media means that Ireland’s series win in New Zealand won’t go down as a national moment in the same way a big World Cup win would, but that shouldn’t lessen the size of the feat.

It was the first time in 28 years that the All Blacks had lost a home series and only the third time in history.

Throw in the fact that the first Test was a defeat where Ireland never looked like winning and the turnaround must be marked as one of greatest Irish achievements across any sport.

But – and there is always a ‘but’ – this will count for little if autumn of next year sees another World Cup quarter-final defeat.

Previous Irish teams have done great things in between the big one but then been unable to maintain their form and momentum.

The task now is to push on and make these things so common that they’re hardly worthy of being remarked upon, rather than a stand-alone peak that is rarely matched.