LIMERICK 1-19 DUBLIN 1-16
The distance from the headline to the small print was sketched out efficiently yesterday in Nowlan Park.
Skim the results and you see All-Ireland champions Limerick surging to a league final, and 1B denizens Dublin struggling for oxygen in a battle with the form team in the country.
However, the league being the league, there was something to comfort Dublin in the game. They hit all but one point of the last 1-5 scored in the game and also contended with a freakish sequence of first-half injuries.
“They (the injuries) were simple things,” said Dublin manager Mattie Kenny.
“Three lads rolled their ankles, and it was unusual because the pitch was actually very good out there today. Look that’s sport. That’s the challenge you’re hit with and I felt the injuries kind of stopped us building that momentum in the first-half.”
Limerick manager John Kiely echoed Kenny’s point about a disjointed game: “When Dublin went with a sweeper that was obviously going to change the nature of the game, and there weren’t going to be as many scoring chances created. It did have an impact on the first half.
“I thought we coped with it very well, I think we were precise and measured in what we did with the ball. We were solid, but it took us a long time to wear down the game, to get to a point where we could push on.
“It was a very stop-start game, it wasn’t a very enjoyable game the way it evolved today. Some days you just have to grind it out, and this was one of those days you just have to grind it out, to get the job done and get out.”
That Limerick did. Neither side took the initiative in the first half, when Dublin benefited from the introduction of Paul Ryan as a sub — his accuracy kept them in touch, though there was a warning sign for Limerick in Kyle Hayes’ injury-time run through the middle — he placed Aaron Gillane but the corner-forward blazed the ball over rather than under the bar: 0-10 to 0-9 at half-time.
Limerick, backed by the wind, settled quickly after the break, with three points from Byrnes, Gillane (both frees) and Darragh O’Donovan — and four wides as well.
Eamonn Dillon and Paul Ryan pointed for Dublin but Limerick kept getting scores easier. Gillane (two frees), Byrnes and Peter Casey restored their lead turning into the final ten minutes, pushing them 0-17 to 0-12 ahead.
Limerick then put together a sumptuous move for Seamus Flanagan’s goal; Ronan Hayes’ goal in response was a consolation for Dublin, though they finished with three points as well.
“I just said it to the lads inside,” said Kiely, “Some days you’re just going to come across games like this, where the game is just about the process, and moving through it and moving through it — and backing the process.
“That was a great challenge to us today from that perspective, to make sure we backed the process and didn’t deviate or get bothered by other aspects of the game.
“We stuck to what we do, and what we know we can do. It was more difficult than normal but we stuck with it, and that’s the most important aspect of it.”
For his part, Mattie Kenny paid tribute to Limerick’s physical power and their ability to grab control of the game when it counted.
“That momentum, you’ve got to manage that. When Limerick were having their good spell, we allowed it to go on too long. We didn’t wrestle back the initiative quickly enough.
“We did in the last ten minutes but half-way through the second-half, that’s when the damage was done.”
Accurate enough. But it was encouraging for Dublin to have performed like that without, as Kenny pointed out, Conal Keaney, Liam Rushe, Cian O’Callaghan and Mark Schutte.
Significantly in the context of yesterday’s game, those are players with physical presence: when Dublin players took the ball into traffic yesterday many of them found the going tough, which is hardly surprising. Few teams dictate the terms of engagement around the middle like Limerick.
John Kiely has a proverbially strong squad, and frailties weren’t too apparent yesterday. Does Darragh O’Donovan take too much punishment in his role as an outlet for the defence? Should they have crushed Dublin mercilessly in the final ten minutes?
Maybe. What else is March for in hurling but that kind of speculation?
Anyone doubtful about Limerick’s reliance on power, though, need only consult Cian Lynch’s sublime catch and pass in the build-up to Limerick’s goal.
There it is. Headline and small print all rolled into one.
Scorers for Limerick: A. Gillane (2 frees), D. Byrnes (4 frees)(0-5 each); G Mulcahy (0-3), S. Flanagan (1-0); D. O’Donovan (0-2); C. Lynch, D. Hegarty, T. Morrissey, P. Casey (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dublin: P. Ryan (0-6 frees); D. Sutcliffe (0-4) R. Hayes (1-0), E. Dillon (0-3); T. Connolly, D. Treacy, S. Moran (free) (0-1 each).
LIMERICK: N. Quaid, T. Condon, S. Finn, R. English, D. Byrnes, D. Morrissey, P. O’Loughlin, C. Lynch, D. O’Donovan, G. Hegarty, K. Hayes, T. Morrissey, A. Gillane, P. Casey, G. Mulcahy.
Subs: D. Dempsey for T. Morrissey (53); S. Flanagan for Mulcahy (55); C. Boylan for Hegarty (60); M. Casey for Condon (66); B. Murphy for Hayes (68).
DUBLIN: A. Nolan, D. Gray, E. O’Donnell, P. Smyth, D. O’Connell, S. Moran, C. Crummey, R. McBride, S. Treacy, D. Sutcliffe, J. Hetherton, C. Boland, E. Dillon, O. O’Rourke, S. Barrett.
Subs: P. Ryan for O’Rourke (inj., 11); T. Connolly for Gray (blood 14-HT); F. Whitely for Treacy (inj., 30); J. Malone for McBride (25); R. Hayes for Hetherton (44); D. Treacy for Boland (52)
Referee: J. Keenan (Wicklow).