ANTHONY DALY: Limerick men stood up to be counted in every corner of pitch

I got talking to Joe McKenna in the Gaelic Grounds yesterday shortly after the final whistle. Joe was naturally on a high, as was the whole Limerick crowd, a good share of whom were down on the pitch basking in the warm afterglow of such an impressive win, writes Anthony Daly.

The minors also won yesterday. The under-21s had an impressive victory against Clare recently.

“Things are flying,” said Joe. “But we nearly need the week off for us to come down, before we go up again.”

He was spot on. I saw it myself from having worked in Limerick, a lot of which was spent with Joe as my boss. Limerick have a tendency to go too high when things are going well, and too low when they hit a dip in the road.

As they are on their weekend off next weekend, watching the other four teams in Munster go at it hammer and tongs again will introduce another dose of reality, while a lot of the current hype will have been siphoned out of Limerick’s system by the time they meet Cork on the June Bank Holiday weekend.

Limerick could have won by 12 points. They blew a host of good chances but developing that killer instinct, and becoming more economical with the chances they create, is just another stage they need to go through as they seek to grow and evolve into the serious outfit they are capable of becoming.

There was still so much to admire about their play. Limerick created a huge amount of scoring chances. They played some really intelligent stuff, there was great method to their play, especially the crossfield ball that was the source of so many of those scoring opportunities.

Apart from Seamus Hickey, who did play a lot from behind, their back six were dominant.

Diarmuid Byrnes gave an exhibition. Byrnes often over-indulges in long range shooting, the crazy kind, but he curtailed that part of his game yesterday and played the percentages far more often.

I’ve often been critical of Declan Hannon but he set the tone from the word go. When he’s on his game, Hannon is a serious man, and an even more serious operator. And when tone-setters do their stuff, the rest of the group often take great strength and heart from those key players.

Limerick men stood up everywhere. Nickie Quaid’s puckouts were superb in the first half. I was talking to John Mulqueen during the week and he told me that Graeme Mulcahy was on fire in training. Mul was right because Mulcahy caused rack. Aaron Gillane also burned it up. Every ball that went in to the two of them stuck to the bas of their hurley like glue.

The summer is still young but Tipp look like a team at a serious crossroads already. They have big names to come back, or to come off the bench, but can they get most of those guys match-fit, fresh and ready for what’s coming down the tracks in six days? If they lose to Cork, even with two games Tipp would see as winnable against Clare and Waterford, Tipp’s season could be on the road to ruin.

There was widespread speculation when the team was named on Friday. Most people gave Limerick a great chance when they saw the Tipp starting 15 and that belief was well founded.

The midfield pairing struggled but apart from the new faces, I still think the balance in that side is all wrong. Seamus Kennedy did ok in the troublesome position at full-back but I struggle to understand why they swapped the Maher brothers, Padraic and Ronan.

To me, Paudie is more comfortable on the wing, and Ronan seems happier in the centre. Ronan had a great game but Limerick really went after Paudie.

They tackled and hassled him like wild dogs.

Having four games in a row is tough for the four teams with that schedule but it’s a serious issue now for Tipp with the injuries they have. When you’ve the mileage on the clock like Brendan Maher, ‘Bonner’ Maher and Seamie Callanan, those knocks and setbacks take more out of you.

It’s nearly knock-out hurling for Tipp now next Sunday. Cork will certainly go into the game confident after yesterday. Going to Thurles is almost like a home game too for Cork because they love the place so much.

With their game against Waterford fixed for there too, Cork probably feel that they have four home games in this round-robin.

For Clare, they will need Cusack Park to be like an absolute fortress next weekend. They will hope that a huge crowd comes out in force to get behind the lads because looking at the TV pictures yesterday, there weren’t too many Clare supporters in Cork, which was fierce disappointing.

Clare had the chances in the first half but they just didn’t take enough of them. Cork will feel there is much more in them too. Conor Lehane, Patrick Horgan and Seamus Harnedy didn’t set the world alight but they came up with key plays, and at key moments in the match. The two goals were top class finishes while Horgan’s genius was stamped all over Lehane’s strike.

Clare could have had four or five goals and while Clare will be disappointed not to have been able to apply the killer finish, you have to give credit to the Cork defence. They swallowed up the Clare players very quickly. Guys like Sean O’Donoghue and Colm Spillane tackled like demons and threw the fire blanket over the flames as soon as they appeared.

Mark Coleman was superb, as you’d expect, but I think a lot of other Cork players will improve as the summer progresses. They definitely are contenders.

They were unlucky last summer in the All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford because the sending-off did skew the direction that match was headed, and Cork looked like a team who were carrying some of that hurt yesterday.

And if they use that fuel for the rest of the summer, it could take them a great distance.

Momentum is massive in this round-robin but no team can afford to dwell on a defeat for long either because it could swallow you up.

Dublin certainly seemed to have put the heartbreak of the Kilkenny defeat behind them yesterday with their performance against Wexford but they just couldn’t close it out.

They were one point ahead with time almost up but lost it down the home straight. After Offaly’s defeat to Kilkenny yesterday, that Offaly-Dublin game is now shaping up into becoming the dreaded match-up it threatened to be from the start of the campaign, with relegation imminent for the losers.

I was in Limerick yesterday through my RTÉ radio commitments but I was still frantically trying to keep in touch with what was going on elsewhere, before scrambling to get to a TV set as quickly as possible afterwards to see Clare-Cork.

I wasn’t the only one but that’s why this new format is like being a kid at a birthday party – you want to gorge on everything all around you but you can only eat so much.

And you can only go to one party at a time.


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