Dowling posted 3-9 in the Shannonsider’s 8-26 tally but acknowledges that sterner tests lie ahead for John Allen’s side who walloped Laois in the qualifiers a week earlier.
Dowling said: “When the opportunities present themselves you’ve got to take them, no matter who you’re playing. You can only beat what’s in front of you; Laois were there, Antrim were there and we’ve beaten both, got big scores both times. There was a bit of a lull at the end of the first-half that will have to be looked at but we’re through to the next round.”
Yes, back on the main stage, their next game against one of either Cork/Offaly or Clare/Dublin and if they keep playing like this, then who knows where it might end?
“It’s promising but we won’t know if we’ve made progress from the Tipperary game until the next round.
“I was gutted after the Tipperary loss, I really thought we were going to win that. Now it’s one of Cork, Offaly, Dublin, Clare — those are four contenders for the Liam MacCarthy and it’s only after playing one of them we’ll know how we’re progressing.”
With the introduction during the game of several very impressive substitutes, most notably Shane’s former Ard Scoil Ris teammate Declan Hannon in attack and Seamus Hickey in defence there’s going to be some competition for places now, skin and hair flying over the next few weeks.
“There’s great competition all over the field,” Dowling agrees. “In the last few years Limerick didn’t have that. 2008/2009/2010 we were struggling to beat Laois, now the attitude has changed and the competition for places has stepped up.
“We had it in the backs for a while, now it’s all over the field — we’ve had fellas who can’t even make the 26 who would be pushing for places in a lot of teams.”
One of those feeling the pressure already is wing-back Wayne McNamara, who gave another dominant performance before giving way — to a rousing ovation — to Hickey.
“There’s great competition for places now; Seamus is back and I don’t want to give up my position to him but that’s the nature of the game. Isn’t it great?
“No-one is complaining about the competition and in fairness to John (Allen, manager) and the lads they’ve made the hard calls all year. The main thing is to keep winning.”
They did that in convincing fashion on Saturday, four goals on the board by the 10th minute, even though they were playing into a gale. McNamara continued: “We killed them off early. We’re working very hard in training and that’s what the best teams do, kill off inferior opposition. The first two goals set it up, the next two put it to bed — that’s what Kilkenny and Tipperary do.
“We believe we’re a good team ourselves. We know we’re not up with the very best teams yet but we’re getting there.”