Maher ends Treaty defence

This was a tame defence of their Munster U-21 hurling title by champions Limerick at the rain-sodden Gaelic Grounds last night.

It was a poor second-half display especially, in which they scored but four points in the regular 30 minutes of play despite being aided by a strong breeze.

Their goal was mere consolation, a net-buster by senior star Shane Dowling in injury time when the game was already gone. But, overall, this was a poor performance and made for a disappointing game for the 5,186 who looked on.

Using the wind well, Tipperary got off to a fine start, three points to nil ahead after just five minutes, free-taker and captain John O’Dwyer with two, wing-forward Denis Maher with the third.

Limerick steadied, Dowling getting them off the mark with a pointed free (he would finish with 1-8), but a well-worked goal finished by Maher (albeit facilitated by stand-off defence from Limerick) had Tipperary ahead 1-3 to 0-1 in the 10th minute, very much on top.

Again Limerick steadied and again it was Dowling doing the needful from placed balls, another four, to go with a fine brace from play by another senior star, Kevin Downes, (now operating to good effect on the wing, wasted inside against that wind).

Tipperary replied with three more pointed frees from the deadly O’Dwyer (he finished with nine), but their lead of just two points at the break (1-6 to 0-7) didn’t look near big enough in the conditions. Mind you, that lead would have been much greater had the Tipperary attack — Curran, Maher and O’Meara particularly — properly honed their shooting-eye, a total of 11 wides in that opening half.

Limerick began the second-half in perfect style, yet another pointed Dowling free in the opening minute bringing them within a point. That would prove as close as they would come, however.

With their midfield practically non-existent (both Shane Kenny and Sean O’Brien eventually replaced), their attack at sixes and sevens — or more accurately at 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, which is where Downes seemed to have been played at some stage in a haphazard second-half, Dowling also being shifted around the place — Limerick simply lost their way.

The same could not be said of Tipperary, who very much found their mojo. O’Dwyer continued to severely punish a series of Limerick transgressions, man-of-the-match Maher added two points to his first-half 1-1, Sean Curran finally found the posts, giant full-forward Cian Hogan finally won one of the dozens of high balls pumped in his direction and pointed, dual star Liam McGrath capped a busy night with a point of his own, and Nenagh CBS Harty Cup star Jason Forde, on as a half-time substitute, marked his entrance with an assured shot and point.

All in all a disappointing evening forLimerick, though there is one consolation for senior manager John Allen — Dowling was again outstanding.

For undersung Tipperary, another big scalp in this campaign, star-studded Cork already seen off.

Now they await the winners of Clare/Waterford this evening, the final fixed for Wednesday, August 8, again away from home. Like the seniors on their Munster journey, the long hard road — will it end likewise?

Scorers for Tipperary: J O’Dwyer 0-9 (8f); D Maher 1-3; C Hogan, L McGrath, J Forde, S Curran, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Limerick: S Dowling 1-8 (0-6f, 0-2 65s); K Downes 0-2; N Kennedy 0-1.

TIPPERARY: P Ryan; S Maher, A Ryan, P Ryan; B Stapleton, W Ryan, J Cahill; D McCormack, N O’Meara; L McGrath, S Curran, D Maher; E Murray, C Hogan, J O’Dwyer (c).

Subs: J Forde (Murray 30); A McGrath (McCormack 58).

LIMERICK: A Murphy; A Dempsey, D Morrissey, S O’Reilly; T Ryan, D Hannon, R Egan (c); S Kenny, S O’Brien; S Dowling, N Kennedy, M Carmody; M Ryan, K Downes, W Griffin.

Subs: J Fitzgibbon (Griffin 29); R O’Donnell (O’Brien 40); M O’Connell (Kenny 47); A Breen (Carmody 55).

Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).

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