Playing host to its first double-header of the spring, the Gaelic Grounds wasn’t exactly hopping on Saturday evening. Indeed, by comparison with the 8,000 or so who packed into Páirc Uí Rinn , the atmosphere at the Limerick venue was more sombre than sprightly.
Staged as the curtain-raiser to a Division 3 football clash in front of 1,902 fans, TJ Ryan’s Limerick had their fourth victory of the campaign wrapped up by the time Graeme Mulcahy became the final member of the starting front six to write his name onto the scoresheet 23 minutes in – 1-13 to 0-4 read the scoreboard.
Barry Nash drilled home the first Limerick goal inside five minutes and two more were added before the break, Nash and John Fitzgibbon making light work of the Laois defence when weaving inside the cover.
The gap at the interval was 18 points, 3-15 to 0-6, stretching out to 32 come the final whistle. Mulcahy, Pat Ryan and Michael Ryan raised further green flags in the second period; Laois’ top-scorer on the night, PJ Scully, pulled one back for the visitors on 62 minutes.
All told, aside from reaffirming the urgent need to get the hell out of Division 1B, Saturday evening was of absolutely no use to the Limerick hurlers. An A versus B training game would have been more productive. Mulcahy basically walked in their fourth goal, while John Fitzgibbon, who finished with 1-14, was pinging over points for fun.
“I think Laois were a bit flat on the night, things didn’t work for them,” said Ryan. “We got off to a good start, our boys were professional and we wanted to win the game. We just wanted to get going towards next week in a positive frame of mind. Four games in, we were expected to win the four games. We have done that, we now move on to next week. From the outset, people were saying it would come down to ourselves and Clare.
“Ardscoil Rís had a good win [in the All-Ireland PPS semi-final] which was good for Limerick hurling. It’s a big week for Limerick hurling, I’d like to wish Na Piarsaigh the best of luck. They can make another statement for Limerick.”
Strangely, Ryan did not dismiss the notion of members of the Na Piarsaigh team lining out at Cusack Park three days after the club decider. “Anything that can help us win we will consider.”
For Laois, conceding an average of 2-22 per game this spring, a relegation play-off against the Division 2A winners is now inevitable.
“I feel for my players,” said Cheddar Plunkett. “We just didn’t hit the ground running and we were a good bit off the pace of the game.”
J Fitzgibbon (1-14, 0-9 frees, 0-1 sc); B Nash (2-2); P Browne, T Morrissey (0-4 each); G Mulcahy (1-1); M Ryan, P Ryan (1-0 each); K O’Brien (0-2); D Byrnes (0-1 free), G O’Mahony (0-1 each).
PJ Scully (1-5, 0-4 frees); C Dwyer (0-3); R King, S Maher, R Mullaney, C Collier (0-1 each).
B Hennessy; T Condon, R McCarthy, S O’Brien; P O’Brien, D Byrnes, S Hickey; P Ryan, P Browne; G O’Mahony, T Morrissey, J Fitzgibbon; G Mulcahy, K O’Brien, B Nash.
M Ryan for Nash, G Hegarty for S O’Brien (both HT), W McNamara for Byrnes (45 mins) J Ryan for O’Mahony (50), B O’Connell for Browne (58).
E Reilly; J Phelan, D Maher, C Healy; L Bergin, N Foyle, R Mullaney; C Collier, P Purcell; C Dwyer, S Maher, M Whelan; W Dunphy, W Hyland, PJ Scully.
R King for Purcell, T Delaney for Bergin, J Lennon for Foyle (all HT), O Carroll for Phelan (47), C Stapleton for Dunphy (63).
J McGrath (Westmeath).