A TEAM knocking at the door of eternity, one glazed by glistening, breathtaking, terrifying peak-of-their-power sheen, carried the ancient game to another universe of wonder.
mmune to gravity, soaring weightless to untouched dimensions, Limerick hurtled through the ozone.
Long before half-time, this jaw-dropping exhibition of power, touch, rhythm, efficiency, ferocity, selflessness, craft and carnivorous hunger had brought Cork – forlorn and broken – to the edge of ruin.
John Kiely’s mighty and untouchable side were as pitiless as death unsheathing the grim reaper’s scythe.
In his lyrical novel charting the life of the wild maestro Rudolph Nuryev, the Irish author Colum McCann attributes an evocative quote to the English ballerina, Margot Fonteyn.
It came rushing across the Croke Park skyline as Limerick advanced into the territory of make-believe.
“Genius is another word for magic and the whole point of magic is that it is inexplicable.”
The territory to which Limerick sailed in securing the county’s first back-to-back All-Irelands was unfathomable, incomprehensible and, yes, inexplicable.
For context: Their blinding first-half sunburst of 3-18, 3-16 from play, would have won six of the All-Irelands since 2011.
Cian Lynch, the Patrickswell laureate, conjured poetry so hopelessly beautiful, the only appropriate reaction was to shed a tear and give thanks for being alive.
Lynch was 6/4 favourite to win Hurler of Year before throw-in. A six-pack of scores garnishing a cerebral masterclass will have his supporters merrily counting their winnings long before the official announcement.
His signature drumbeat is a Messi-like gift for making works of art appear effortless: Here he was a maestro, commodore of Croke Park.
As a thunderous encore to his imperishable seven-point salvo in last year’s final, Gearoid Hegarty – a languid, Leviathan assassin – amassed 2-2 in the first 35 minutes.
Before his knee capsized beneath him Peter Casey jitterbugged and gyrated his way to five points.
From Aaron Gillane to Diarmuid Byrnes to the industrious and beastly phenomenon, William O’Donoghue, these green uniformed Jedi knights, flourished their hurls like lightsabres: Truly, the force was with them.
Dizzied by the incoming shelling, the Rebel empire and their great captain, Patrick Horgan, never had a hope of striking back.
Limerick didn’t merely shatter the All-Ireland final scoring record – jointly held by Kilkenny’s class of 2008 and the 1970 Rebels – they redefined all that might be possible on a rectangle of grass.
A few stats: Thirteen players scored; 3-28 of their total arrived from play. The 40,000 inside the palpitating old coliseum were witness to greatness.
This is a team that is giving hurling a new way of looking at itself in the mirror.
When Kilkenny fired a stun-bolt into Waterford’s skull in 2008, it set a new benchmark for ruthlessness: This was just as merciless and, perhaps, even more pulverising.
It was an afternoon that unfolded against a delirious backcloth.
The pre-match atmosphere around the ancient watering holes was joyous, electrifying, the colour blinding; by noon, every avenue into the city’s heart was bursting its banks, an endless, dazzling, overflowing river of crimson and emerald.
Dublin’s streetscape for fully 24 hours before throw-in felt like a nation turning the key in the lock of hope.
After so many dark days, here was an occasion brilliantly invading the imagination.
Cork’s red revolution had brought two underage All-Irelands in the past week, but the giddiness of their huge and vocal travelling support was punctured inside ten seconds.
That’s how long Lynch required to adjust his sights, square his hips, open his shoulders, and, from beneath the Hogan Stand, fire the first unerring killshot.
After that, indifferent to Shane Kingston’s booming fourth minute goal, the green bullets came in unstoppable torrents.
Half-way through the game, adding to their legend, Limerick had crushed Cork and had only history for an opponent.
But even history was impotent to place a roadblock in front of a team rewriting page after page of the record books.
And, to the echo of Treaty war drums, a ferocious force of nature marched onwards to the hurling heavens.