Limerick 1-12 Galway 1-20
Last week we were musing on the difference between 1A and 1B in terms of hurling quality. Yesterday in the Gaelic Grounds there was more food for thought.
The scoreline is the most obvious barometer, with Galway easing to an eight-point win over their opponents from the second tier, but that’s misleading: the margin was 11 points until James Ryan’s injury-time goal for Limerick.
TJ Ryan, the Limerick manager, was in no doubt about the source of his side’s woes. He nodded to Galway’s exposure to better opposition: "They are used to playing week in, week out at a higher intensity. When you play in Division 1B maybe some of the mistakes you make you get away with them.
"You get punished every time at the top level, there is a bit of a learning curve there for us. We have to learn and to improve from it."
Condemned to that second tier for yet another season, and now facing a lengthy lay-off until the Munster championship, the damage of their lengthy sojourn in 1B is being felt.
Yesterday the intentions are good and the template sensible, with the ball being pinged from green jersey to green jersey through two-thirds of the field. Yet when they got into the opposition half Limerick couldn’t find their full-forward line, and had to revert to hopeful deliveries which often went astray.
As a result, Galway defenders picked up plenty of ball and Iarla Tannian in particular cleared what is technically described as a world of ball.
Galway’s approach was like an old photographic negative, the same image only in reverse. They weren’t afraid to deliver the ball long and weren’t nervous about retaining it near the Limerick goal with short passes.
As a result they made a hatful of goal chances apart from the one they took, when Niall Healy was floored and Conor Cooney netted the resulting penalty on 15 minutes.
At that stage they were level with Limerick, 1-3 to 0-6, but Galway never looked back. Conor Cooney’s unerring accuracy from placed balls had them 1-8 to 0-8 ahead at the break.
The game itself came to an end as a contest just after half-time — in the 10 minutes after the break Galway stretched their lead to five points, while also hitting five wides.
Limerick didn’t get going in the second half at all, and at the three-quarter stage they’d added just one point to their half-time tally, from Graeme Mulcahy, to make it 0-9 to 1-14. The rest of the game was like a training spin for Galway.
Galway manager Anthony Cunningham said: "Limerick found it hard to get back into it, but it’s nearly April and we’d want to be cranking it up at this stage."
Cunningham then focused on Kilkenny, sensibly enough. Galway come up against the stripey men in the league semi-final, which is an appointment that always concentrates the mind.
The Galway boss wasn’t just being kind when he said he’d learn more in a game like yesterday’s than he would at training. He is persevering with Tannian at centre-back but the powerful Adrahan man was exposed once or twice to the speed of Kevin Downes yesterday and suffered in the comparison: Messrs A Daly and B Cody have no doubt noticed.
However, there were brighter shoots, like the daffodils lining the roadways. Niall Healy was too casual with a goal chance but was otherwise busy and effective.
Appropriately in the run-in to Easter, the great JC made an appearance for Galway after Portumna’s All-Ireland club run. For TJ Ryan the outlook is cloudier.
He could do with Richie McCarthy, Declan Hannon and Seamus Hickey reappearing on form and in the whole of their health, but he wasn’t sugar-coating the pill yesterday. "We’ll go back to the training ground now and there will be club activity too," he said.
"After today you’d be worried that we were off the pace against a Division 1A team.
"The way we were beaten in the second half is a worry, there is definitely a lot of work to do."
April is the cruellest month, the poet tells us. March wasn’t too kind to Limerick either.
Scorers for Galway: C Cooney 1-9 (1-0 pen, 0-5f, 0-4 65); David Burke 0-3; P Brehony, J Glynn 0-2 each; N Burke, N Healy, C Mannion and D Hayes 0-1 each.
Scorers for Limerick: J Ryan 1-3; K Downes and S Dowling 0-3 each (2f, 1 65); G Mulcahy, C Allis and A Dempsey 0-1 each.
Galway subs: J Canning for N Burke (52); J Flynn for C Mannion (58); K Hynes and D Hayes for D Burke and A Harte (both 61); G McInerney for N Healy (65).
Limerick subs: A Dempsey for P Browne (53); M Carmody for C King (61); W Hickey for D Reidy (63).
LIMERICK: N. Quaid, C. King, P. O’Loughlin, T. Condon, P. O’Brien, W. McNamara, G. O’Mahony, D. O’Grady (c), P. Browne, K. Downes, J. Ryan, D. Reidy, G. Mulcahy, S. Dowling, M. Ryan. GALWAY: C. Callanan, F. Moore, R. Burke, D. Collins, A. Harte, I. Tannian, Daithi Burke, J. Coen, P. Brehony, N. Burke, C. Cooney, David Burke (c), N. Healy, J. Glynn, C. Mannion.