Promotion to the top tier had yet again eluded Limerick, and Treaty supporters took to their keyboards en masse. Others shouted from the stands. There was nowhere to hid. Justified, said manager TJ Ryan yesterday afternoon. Unfair, fumed Shane Dowling.
Once again, those critics were silenced by Limerick’s opening Munster championship performance. Once again, Limerick showed spring form counts for little when the gates to Tom Semple’s field are opened in late May.
Full-forward Dowling pulled no punches in expressing his disgust at the abuse levelled at the players over the past number of months.
“I’m sick of people going on about Limerick in the league and the sooner they realise that, the better,” blasted Dowling.
“They can shout year in, year out about Limerick this and Limerick that, and they can tweet all they like and abuse all the players they like but I said it last year and I said it the year before — that it is not working.
“The sooner they row in behind us, the better for everyone. I don’t think it is right. It is not going to change, irrespective of how much I raise the issue. That is the reality of it.”
As for TJ Ryan’s take on the matter: “The way we played in the league, the way we finished in Croke Park, it’s history, but I was disappointed by it. We were disappointing and any criticism of that would probably be fair.
“The lads have worked hard since then, done a lot of ground work, fitness work; getting to the intensity of the game was always going to be key for us. Winning makes all of that worthwhile.”
Meanwhile, Ryan insisted he did not see Seanie Tobin’s sending off offence, claiming, however, that Clare’s Pat Donellan was “unlucky” to see red when catching Donal O’Grady’s helmet with his hurl on the stroke of half-time.
“I suppose Seanie got welcomed to the game, but I’d have to see it again. But it was a hard game to referee and in fairness to him [referee Colm Lyons], in the first half I was remonstrating with him because I felt we could have gotten frees. He might have been giving the advantage and it mightn’t have worked out — I think with this new advantage rule there’ll be that feel to it for a while until we get a proper feel for it.
“I thought we should have had a few frees but I’m sure Davy will say the same thing.
“I think Pat [Donellan] might have been unlucky, but it did look like a blow to the head. That’s my point of view; it was called the way it was. I’d disagree with a few of the calls, but it is swings and roundabouts — that’s the beauty of hurling, isn’t it?”
Leaving aside the various sub-plots that overshadowed an error-ridden contest, Ryan hailed the “pride and passion” displayed by his players in responding to Clare’s two second-half goals.
“I thought it was a great end, winning by a point. I’ll take that any day,” said Ryan. “I turned to Mike [O’Riordan] and he said there was a minute of injury time, I did see four on the board.
“I’d say there was a bit of confusion for everybody when he blew up a minute and a half into it.
“It mightn’t have been a brilliant game but the second half turned into action. I thought, when we went six up, that we were in a good position, but they rattled back into it with two great goals.
“I give huge credit to our guys, the pride and passion they showed in the jersey today was incredible, I’m delighted for them and for the backroom team. The effort, time and energy gone into planning for the game — plans A, b, C and so on — to get the win today is hugely satisfying.” A brief pause from Ryan.
“But it’s a first-round win. The work starts again tomorrow morning.”