By John Redington
Limerick 3-16 Waterford 1-17
A blistering opening half-hour in which they racked up a 15-point lead saw Limerick make it three wins out of three in the Gaelic Grounds and qualify for next Saturday evening’s Munster Hurling League final against Clare.
Tearing into the game right from the whistle, they tore Waterford’s defence apart with fast direct attacks from every angle.
It should have led to a massacre against opponents who had already shipped two heavy defeats in their previous outings and looked as if they wanted to be somewhere else as they were out-run, out-thought and out-muscled in almost every position.
But midway through the second half, just a three points separated the sides as goal from the blue just before the break and a moment of contemplation during it roused the Déise spirit and almost created a comeback of mythical proportions.
It didn’t work out in the end as chances were wasted before sub Kevin O’Brien struck for the home side’s third goal to the miracle just beyond the bounds of possibility.
Tom Morrissey’s goal after Seán Tobin had been blocked capped three opening minutes of Limerick bliss and Waterford hopes of steadying the ship were rocked when David Reidy whacked home the second.
A run of seven points without reply had the listless opposition floundering coming up to the break but, just as the knockout blow was about to land, Austin Gleeson intercepted a move from defence to blast home a spectacular goal and follow up points narrowed the half-time deficit to 2-12 to 1-7.
The momentum continued through the break and, with Maurice Shanahan’s frees and two Jake Dillon strikes from play, Limerick were on the ropes facing into the closing minutes.
Then O’Brien struck after his first effort had been blocked to give them enough daylight and send the attendance of 1,069 home happy.
Scorers for Limerick: D Reidy 1-5 (0-2f), T Morrissey, K O’Brien 1-1 each, S Tobin 0-3, T O’Brien, D Byrnes (1f), G O’Mahony 0-2 each.
Scorers for Waterford: M Shanahan 0-7 (5f), P Curran 0-3, A Gleeson 1-0, S Bennett, J Dillon 0-2 each, J Barron, S McNulty, P Hogan 0-1 each.
Limerick: N Quaid; T Condon, R McCarthy, S O’Brien; P O’Brien, D Byrnes, W McNamara; J Fitzgibbon, P Browne; B Nash, G O’Mahony, T Morrissey; T O’Brien, D Reidy, S Tobin.
Subs: B Hennessy for N Quaid (inj, 26m), Darragh O’Donovan for John Fitzgibbon (inj, ht), G Mulcahy for D Reidy (50m), K O’Brien for T O’Brien (50m), M Reidy for T Condon (51m), T Morrissey not replaced (inj, 70m).
Waterford: I O’Regan; P Prendergast, S Fives, N Connors; S Roche, S McNulty, C Gleeson; J Barron, K Moran; C Dunford, S Bennett, J Dillon; A Gleeson, M Shanahan, P Curran.
Subs: G O’Brien for S Roche (22m), T Devine for J Barron (46m), S O’Sullivan for K Moran (46m), P Hogan for C Dunford (50m), B Coughlan for S Bennett (inj, 70m).
Referee: P Kelly (Tipperary).