Limerick 2-14 Waterford 1-13
There was a distinct championship edge to this hugely entertaining league tie at the Gaelic Grounds as Limerick squeezed past Waterford in a cracking dress rehearsal for their big June 14 showdown.
Limerick manager Justin McCarthy put one over on his former charges as the hosts held on for a win that they should have wrapped up by half-time such was their early dominance.
But McCarthy must have been delighted with the cohesion and understanding shown by his defenders who were rock solid throughout despite the second half dismissal of Brian Geary after 47 minutes.
Damien Reale and Stephen Lucey were in control throughout and Seamus Hickey had a good game at midfield.
Waterford’s defence, by contrast, was turn asunder in the first quarter but they settled better in the second half
Niall Moran emerged as the star performer for Limerick and he scored
1-9 of their total including three frees and two 65s, while two of his scores from play were of the highest quality.
But a worry for McCarthy is that only one other forward scored, a point by James Ryan.
Waterford manager Davey Fitzgerald could be pleased enough with the performance of his front six, four of whom were on the scoreboard headed by Eoin Kelly who had 1-4 - all but two of his points coming from frees.
It was a game full of twists and turns as Limerick got off to a dream start with a first minute point from Niall Moran and two minutes later Moran struck a goal from a pass by James Ryan who then hit a point to make it 1-2 to 0-0 after five minutes.
But the gloss began to fade for the home side when they hit three wides in-a-row.
It took Waterford 13 minutes to get their first point, a free by Eoin Kelly who was fouled by Damien Reale.
A superb save by Clinton Hennessy denied the on-fire Ryan a second Limerick goal but Moran popped over the resulting '65' and it was all of 19 minutes before John Mullane had Waterford’s first point from play.
If Limerick thought they were cruising they got a due awakening when Kelly blasted a 21-yard free past Brian Murray to make it 1-3 apiece.
Seamus Hickey, from long range, and Moran from a '65' had Limerick two points in front but Shane Walsh cut the margin to a point and Mullane then levelled.
Two more points by Moran, one from a free, had Limerick 1-7 to 1-5 in front at the interval.
Kelly and Limerick substitute Donnacha Sheehan swapped points but two in-a-row for Waterford by Richie Foley and Gary Hurney tied it up at
Limerick’s Brian Geary was shown a red card for a foul on Seamus Prendergast who was replaced by Dan Shanahan and with his first touch, a Shanahan point put Waterford in front for the first time after 48 minutes.
Moran leveled for Limerick and after Brian Murray made another superb save in the Limerick goal, the ball was moved dowfield for substitute Donie Ryan to grab Limerick’s second goal and another pointed free by Moran opened a four-point lead which was maintained to the finish.
Speaking after the game, McCarthy said: "It is good to win a league game but the intensity of a championship game was not there. We hurled well.
"The game against Cork stood to us and it was important that we played stronger this time. Obviously when they had the extra man we had to work harder but the main thing is that the team overall played well in the latter part of the game.
"I was disappointed that we were not further ahead at half0time as we missed two or three goal opportunities in that opening half."
Commenting on his side's display, Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald said: "Limerick are miles ahead of us at present. We will have to take a good look at ourselves. They were a lot better than us. I think Justin has done a great job with Limerick to date and they are taking great shape.
"But the championship is two months away and you never know what will happen. I thought we would pull away when we had the extra man but Limerick showed that they have lots of bottle."
Man-of-the-match Niall Moran added: "It is what happens in ten weeks'
time that really matters though we were glad to get the win this time but we have no illusions about what lies ahead. We are well down the pecking order with regards to winning a Munster Championship.
"We were disappointed with the sending off of Brian (Geary). I didn’t see what he got sent off for but Brian is a clean player.
"We left the last two games behind us and we wanted to win this one."
Moran also expects the Limerick panel to be bolstered by some returning players in the coming weeks.
"Hopefully Mark (Foley) will return in the next few weeks. He is our leader and my brother Ollie (Moran) might also be back," he admitted.