Proud manager Liam Kearns had expected a big performance and that is what he got in this one-sided SFC qualifier at Dr Cullen Park on Saturday.
Once replacement full-forward Michael Reidy pounced for the first of his two goals, the Carlow challenge collapsed.
“We had to compete with them physically if we were to have any chance of winning. If we had been able, a lot of ability would have come out in our team,’’ Carlow boss Liam Hayes remarked. “But, they laid down the law from the beginning. It was a pity we put up such a rotten performance - for ourselves to end the season - our supporters and the television cameras!’’
Carlow’s problems were evident from an early stage. With the assistance of the wind, they exerted a fair amount of pressure but made no real progress. In particular, their concentration on a short passing game got them into endless trouble, because of their inability to kick for scores and the effectiveness of the Limerick cover.
Limerick moved the ball quickly out of defence and were much more direct, benefiting initially from Muiris Gavin’s excellent free-taking and the strength of Conor Fitzgerald and Micheal Reidy.
Reidy thrived on the support finished the evening with 2-2. “Like every other panel member you’re disappointed when you don’t get to play in the Munster championship. But, today I got my chance and I was delighted with my performance, but more delighted with the win. We feel we let ourselves down a bit against Kerry.’’
Kearns expressed similar sentiments. “That was a good performance. We felt that he might get a bit of change in there if we got the right type of ball and he did really well. He was a bit unlucky to lose out for the Munster semi-final. We needed a target man against Kerry and that was why Jason Stokes started. This was a different scenario.’’
Reidy’s first goal put Limerick 1-5 to 0-3 in front and it was all one way traffic thereafter. At times, Carlow were more alert to the breaking ball around the centre of the field, with centre-back John Kehoe and left-half Richard Sinnott both prominent at stages. But they missed the presence of big midfielder Tomas Walsh, who was injured.
Typically, John Quane did tremendous work for Limerick as a link between defence and attack and Stephen Lucey (who, with Fitzgerald had played with the hurlers on Friday night) was very effective once he settled.
In essence, Limerick’s strength lay in their teamwork, from Seamus O’Donnell in goal to the hard-working Michael Crowley in the left corner.
Ahead 1-8 to 0-5 at the break, they increased their grip on the resumption and limited the home side to a mere two points.
Stephen Kelly had a bigger role to play in the Limerick attack, John Galvin was also more to the forefront at midfield, while wing-backs Padraig Browne and Stephen Lavin were also prominent. Browne, in fact, set up Reidy for the second goal, ten minutes from time and it further highlighted the significant difference in standards.
Afterwards the Limerick manager emphasised the value of having a two-week break and losing to Kerry at the semi-final stage, explaining: “we were very refreshed. After losing the Munster final last year they sent us up to Hyde Park six days later and we were on our knees - mentally and physically. It was impossible. The year before they sent us up to Armagh.
“It’s only one round and at the end of the day Carlow are about three years behind the development stage we are at. It was more important for us that we won and moved on. We’re not going to lie down for anybody. It’s two rounds away from Croke Park and that’s the carrot.’’
: Limerick - M. Reidy 2-2; M. Gavin 0-6 (0-5 frees); C. Fitzgerald 0-3; S. Kelly, J. Galvin, S. Lavin and M. Crowley 0-1 leach. Carlow; S. Rea 0-4 (0-3 frees); B. Carbery 0-2; R. Walker 0-1.
: S. O’Donnell; T. Stack, C. Mullane, J. McCarthy; P. Browne, S. Lucey, S. Lavin; J. Quane, J. Galvin; S. Buckley, M. Gavin, S. Kelly; C. Fitzgerald, M. Reidy, M. Crowley. Subs: M. O’Riordan for Stack (injured, second half); M. O’Brien for Buckley (45th minute); D. Reidy for Lucey, J. Murphy for Gavin and J. Stokes for Fitzgerald (61st).
: J. Brennan; C. McCarthy, L. Murphy, P. Cashin; J. Hayden, J. Kehoe, R. Sinnott; P. Walsh, M. Brennan; B. Carbery, J. Byrne, R. Walker; S. Rea, M. Carpenter, B. Kelly. Subs: P. Kelly for Cashin (26th minute); D. Byrne for J. Byrne and P. Hickey for Kelly (45th); J. Nevin for Rea (54th); W. Minchin for Walsh (64th).
C. Broderick (Down).
The programme notes pointed out this was the first major game for Down referee Colm Broderick after ‘taking a break’. It showed, unfortunately, because he repeatedly missed obvious fouls.