After 15 minutes of this NHL Division One tussle, the hosts were ahead 1-4 to 0-5 with Donncha Sheehan’s fourth minute goal keeping Limerick marginally in front. Then the floodgates opened.
A torrent of points, along with goals from corner-forward Donie Ryan and team captain Ollie Moran, meant Limerick were out of sight, 3-13 to 0-6, by the interval.
“5-18 is good scoring,” said satisfied Limerick manager Joe McKenna. “We played very well in the first-half. We lost our way for about ten minutes, but overall we played good hurling. In the second half, we lost a few players with the three yellow cards. That unsettled us, forced us to change things around a bit, especially at midfield.”
The first of those yellow cards came within seconds of the throw-in, with midfielder Donal O’Grady getting his marching orders in one of the last acts of this discredited experimental rule. “I won’t be sorry to see the back of it,” McKenna added, “It’s a joke. Three of our fellas went today (centre-back Brian Geary and corner-back Damien Reale were the other two, along with Laois star James Young). It’s crazy. O’Grady was a big loss, he’s been playing very well for us - himself and Paul have developed a very good understanding and will give anyone a match. That upset the partnership, so we had to keep chopping and changing there after that.”
With an eye on their championship game against Tipperary in three weeks, McKenna was pleased with a number of aspects of his side’s play.
Goalkeeper has been a problem position for some years for Limerick, but Timmy Houlihan put his body on the line with several gutsy close-range saves and made one outstanding reaction stop. The Lawlor, Geary and Moran half-back line was superb, with the latter excelling also when shifted to midfield to take care of James Young, the springboard for most of the Laois attacks.
Paul O’Grady continues to impress in midfield, the experiment of playing former full-back TJ Ryan at full-forward is bearing fruit (five points), Niall Moran has discovered his form at centre-forward while dual stars Stephen Lucey and Conor Fitzgerald are bedding in well.
Former underage prodigy Andrew O’Shaughnessy produced the kind of display that had experts talking of him in the same vein as Eoin Kelly and Henry Shefflin.
“TJ was good, Shocks (O’Shaughnessy) has come back to form, Niall Moran also played well as did Paul O’Grady at midfield. Ollie will always play well so we’ve a lot of plusses there.
“We’re pleased in a lot of areas, but there are still a few places we have to improve on. Our movement was very good in the first half but not so good in the second. Once we moved we looked impressive, so maybe the lesson is to keep moving. We trained on Monday night, some of them played club hurling on Tuesday night, we trained Wednesday and Thursday, then some of them had football matches last night, followed by a game today.
“That’s not ideal preparation for any match. With three weeks still to go to the championship though, this is the time to put in the training. Most of all, we got out of this without another injury and that limits our options.”
Limerick have just one game, against Waterford planned before the championship date with Tipperary.
“That will be next weekend, Sunday or Monday,” McKenna added.
“We’re terrified of more injuries, we need our best fifteen against Tipp and see what happens.”
On this form, don’t write off the men in green-and-white. Ken Hogan certainly won’t.
: Limerick: N. Moran 1-3; TJ Ryan 0-5 (0-1 free); A. O’Shaughnessy 0-4; C. Fitzgerald 0-4 (frees); O. Moran 1-1; D. Sheehan 1-1; D. Ryan 1-0; A. O’Connor 1-0. Laois: J. Young 1-5 (1-4 frees); T. Fitzgerald 1-1; C. Coonan 0-2 (0-1 free); J. Phelan, D. Culleton, J. Walsh, P. Russell (free), 0-1 each.
: T. Houlihan; D. Reale, S. Lucey, M. Foley; P. Lawlor, B. Geary, O. Moran (c); P. O’Grady, D. O’Grady; C. Fitzgerald, N. Moran, A. O’Shaughnessy; D. Ryan, TJ Ryan, D. Sheehan.
: P. Cahill (D. O’Grady yellow 1); P. Sheahan (Geary yellow 35+3); M. Cahill (Reale yellow 37); G. Heagney (P. Cahill 60); A. O’Connor (Fitzgerald 62).
: K. Galvin; B. Campion, P. Cuddy, C. Healy; C. Coonan, S. Dwyer, M. McEvoy; J. Young, J. Walsh; J. Phelan, D. Rooney, L. Tynan; T. Fitzgerald, M. Rooney, D. Culleton.
: P. Russell (M. Rooney inj. 35); E. Jackman (Phelan 52); C. Brophy (Young yellow 54); J. Walsh (D. Rooney inj. 59); C. Clear (Fitzgerald inj. 64).
: M Haverty (Galway).