How impressive were Galway? Very, eventually, though for a long while they were looking decidedly dodgy. With just four minutes to play in the first half, a half in which they were assisted by a strong wind, the visitors led by two points, (0-8 to 0-6) with most of their scores from free-taker Ger Farragher. Then came the decisive period, much to the chagrin of Limerick manager Richie Bennis.
“We were within two points with five minutes to go to half-time and then five minutes after half-time we were 12 points down.”
So what happened? Finally making good use of the wind at their backs, Galway popped over five points before the break (including a monster free from his own 50m line by Farragher) to just one for Limerick, to turn over leading by six, (0-13 to 0-7).
Then, on the changeover, and knowing they were up against it facing into that wind, they upped the ante, and Limerick had no answer. The Tribesmen hit six superb points on the trot in just over five minutes and Limerick were facing a mountain.
“We were short five great players,” continued Bennis; “Another aspect is the match itself didn’t mean much to Limerick; it meant more to Galway — they could qualify direct for the semi-final if they won by so much, which they did. We were going to be in a quarter-final one way or the other.
“But that’s not an excuse.”
No, it is not an excuse, certainly not to the near 4,000 supporters. Limerick were beaten by a good team yesterday, let’s acknowledge that, a team which, agreed manager Loughnane, gave its most impressive display in an unbeaten league campaign.
“It just shows the quality of the players in Galway and the skill level. When you put spirit and skill level along with quality, you have to be in contention with all of the big teams. There’s a great belief no matter how bad things are going we can turn it around.”
That isn’t the full story of this defeat for Limerick, however. They didn’t just lose to an obviously superior team, they surrendered.
Were it not for a sterling rearguard in which keeper Dave Bulfin was magnificent, with three breathtaking saves off Galway centre-forward Fergal Healy (one of the masterminds of the Galway surge), this could have been a defeat of really destructive proportions.
Full-back Stephen Lucey will come under fire for the 1-3 conceded to Iarla Tannian (developing into a full-forward of real potency), Seamus Hickey for the 1-2 scored by Kerrill Wade, but the real damage was done out the field. At half-back and half-forward, the most important lines in any hurling field, Limerick were comprehensively beaten, only Donie Ryan and Brian Begley emerging with credit up front.
One would have to question also the decision to take off midfielder Peter Lawlor. The Croom-man had made a couple of crucial blocks, sent some very good first-time ball to his attack, was more impressive than any of the three half-backs, his normal position. He should have been shifted back to shore up the defence.
Regardless of how many regulars you may be short, or whether a loss will really have any affect on your final league position, an attitude that you can turn it on or off at will doesn’t work in hurling; Kilkenny don’t have an on/off switch. Limerick were beaten far too easily yesterday and accepted defeat far too easily.
Galway: G. Farragher 0-11 (0-10 frees); I. Tannian 1-3; K. Wade 1-2; F. Healy 0-4; N. Healy, K. Hynes, C. Dervan, D. Forde, 0-1 each. Limerick: K. Tobin 0-5 (all frees); A. O’Connor 1-1 (0-1 free); D. O’Grady 0-3; P. Tobin 0-2; D. Ryan 0-2; N. Moran, M. O’Brien, B. Foley, 0-1 each.
J. Skehill; C. Dervan, T. Óg Regan, S. Kavanagh; A. Cullinane, J. Lee, G. Mahon; K. Hynes, R. Murray; G. Farragher, F. Healy, A. Callinan; K. Wade, I. Tannian, N. Healy.
D. Forde (Murray 33); A. Gaynor (Kavanagh 54); S. Glynn (Wade 57); J. Breen (Tannian 69).
D. Bulfin; D. Reale, S. Lucey (c), S. Hickey; M. O’Riordan, P. O’Dwyer, D. Cosgrave; D. O’Grady, P. Lawlor; N. Moran, O. Moran, K. Tobin; P. Tobin, B. Begley, D. Ryan.
M. O’Brien (Lawlor 35); W. McNamara (P. Tobin 49); G. O’Mahony (O’Riordan 51); B. Foley (O. Moran 54); A. O’Connor (K. Tobin 60). Blood sub: D. Clancy (Hickey 71) Ref: B. Kelly (Westmeath): very good job.