By Eoghan Cormican, Semple Stadium
Limerick 0-26 Wexford 1-7
Limerick celebrated a first All-Ireland hurling crown in 13-years at Semple Stadium this evening, easing past Wexford with 16 points to spare in a massively one-sided U21 decider.
An outstanding first-half showing, in which they held a seven-point interval advantage, laid the foundations for the county’s fifth title at this level, their first since 2002. The final quarter was nothing more than a procession as Limerick hit nine-points in the final nine-minutes of action.
Indeed, such was the inevitability surrounding the outcome that both sidelines were thronged with Limerick supporters from the 58th minute. Within seconds of the final whistle had Semple Stadium descended into a sea of green.
JJ Doyle’s team had desperately required a positive opening to the second-half to revive their title bid. It never materialised. They were outscored 0-4 to 0-2 in the third quarter - Pat Ryan and Ronan Lynch (0-3, 0-2 frees) on the mark.
Last year’s defeated finalists sought to stem the flow of Limerick scores by placing a sweeper in front of their full-back line, but it served only to weaken their own forward threat. They needed scores and a five-man forward unit wasn’t going to produce the required amount.
Conor McDonald struck a fine goal on 51 minutes. No comeback followed, though. Limerick closed out the game with points from Ronan Lynch, Peter Casey, Tom Morrissey and Captain Diarmaid Byrnes.
The winners returned to the dressing-room for the interval break 0-11 to 0-4 in front, the scoreboard accurately reflecting their first-half superiority.
The Munster champions operated a two-man full-forward line, with centre-forward Lynch toiling out around the middle of the field and, indeed, further back. John Kiely’s men smartly exploited the space between the 20 and 45-metre lines and were 0-8 to 0-2 to the good after 18 minutes.
Pat Ryan, Barry Nash, Tom Morrissey and Ronan Lynch etched their names on the scoresheet in propelling Limerick clear of their opponents in the opening quarter and it could have been close to game over but for a poor refereeing decision from Johnny Ryan on 11 minutes.
Ronan Lynch had whipped to the net after Wexford ‘keeper Oliver O’Leary repelled David Dempsey’s initial strike, but Limerick celebrations proved premature as Ryan called back the play for a Limerick 20-metre free.
Conor McDonald’s free on 25 minutes, Wexford’s third score of the contest, brought to an end their 17-minute barren spell and it was déjà vu when Ryan disallowed a Kevin Foley goal for the Model County, calling back the play for an earlier foul. McDonald converted, but Limerick finished the half much the stronger, Pat Ryan, Cian Lynch and Barry Nash splitting the posts.
John Kiely's men went strength from strength thereafter.
Scorers for Limerick: R Lynch (0-6, 0-5 frees); B Nash (0-5); T Morrissey (0-4); P Casey (0-1 free), P Ryan, C Lynch (0-3 each); D Byrnes (0-2, 0-1 free).
Scorers for Wexford: C McDonald (1-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 sc); P Foley (0-1 free), A Kenny, C Dunbar (0-1 each).
Limerick: D McCarthy (Glenroe); S Finn (Bruff), R English (Doon), M Casey (Na Piarsaigh); D Byrnes (Patrickswell), B O’Connell (Kildimo Pallaskenry), G Hegarty (St Patrick’s); D O’Donovan (Doon), P Ryan (Doon); B Nash (South Liberties), C Lynch (Patrickswell), D Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh); T Morrissey (Ahane), C Ryan (Pallasgreen), R Lynch (Na Piarsaigh).
Subs: P Casey (Na Piarsaigh) for C Ryan (50), A La Touche-Cosgrave (Monaleen) for P Ryan (52), J Kelliher (Patrickswell) for R Lynch (55), M O’Callaghan (Knockaderry) for Finn (58), J Hannon (Adare) for O’Donovan (59).
Wexford: O O’Leary (Buffers Alley); S Donohoe (Shelmaliers), L Ryan (Rapparees), E Conroy (Naomh Éanna); J White (Oylegate-Glenbrien), P Foley (Crossabeg Ballymurn), J O’Connor (St Martin’s); C Devitt (Ballyfad), T French (Adamstown); A Kenny (Buffers Alley), K Foley (Rapparees), J Cash (Shelmaliers); C Dunbar (Ballygarret), C McDonald (Naomh Éanna), P Sutton (Oulart-The Ballagh).
Subs: S Murphy (St James’ Ramsgrange) for French (36 mins), S Kenny (HH Bunclody) for Devitt (41), S Kelly (Crossabeg-Ballymurn) for Foley (46), J Firman (St Martin’s) for Cash (47).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).