A 13-point victory for Patrickswell following Kilmallock’s 26-point win at the Gaelic Grounds underlined the gulf in class between Limerick’s top-four and the best of the rest.
The structure is something akin to the All-Ireland’s preliminary quarter-finals, which produced a cumulative 35-point defeat for Carlow and Westmeath, compared to the 39-point difference in Limerick yesterday.
It could’ve been more in this, the headline act, but for 14-man South Liberties hitting the final 1-2 after Patrickswell had finished with 19 wides. They could’ve had five more goals in the first-half alone.
However, for the two clubs who emerged to qualify from a group of the bottom-six teams, the championship gave them five competitive games before one blow-out elimination.
“What can you say really?” began Patrickswell manager Gary Kirby, before fielding a question. “Let’s be straight and honest, leading up to it, everyone thought the two quarter-finals were going to be comprehensive but you still have to be prepared right for it. That’s no disrespect to Liberties or Murroe. They fought a very good campaign in their own group but there is a gap between the top-four and the rest at the moment. Today showed it.
When the County Board went with this, you could pick the first four straight away. Deep down, we knew that two wins would be good enough to get you into the knockout stages. Are they going to learn more by playing the same standard, or do they need to play the upper standard to get the better hurling? It’s hard to know.
South Liberties coach Ger Downes was proud of his team’s fight at the end but said there was a difference in class between the teams. However, he’s happy with the structure.
“The championship is fantastic the way it is. For a club like South Liberties to grow and develop players, to get them to commit, this is what you want. You want them to have a realistic chance of going out and winning championship matches in a competitive championship, and that’s what the second-six is about. Stepping up next year to the next-six will be a huge, huge challenge.”
The teams were tied at seven points apiece after 22 minutes, with both sides heavily reliant on frees.
Coming off the back of ten-point defeats to Kilmallock and Na Piarsaigh, Patrickswell were slow to get into gear but moving Aaron Gillane into the full-forward line yielded the next five points for the Well, including two each for Gillane and Lar Considine.
A Tom O’Brien goal on the stroke of half-time was just reward after Kevin O’Brien (twice) and Gillane missed goal chances, while Cian Lynch and O’Brien saw scuffed shots saved by Paul Butler.
The 2016 champions scored the first seven points of the second-half to make it 1-20 to 0-9, during which time Souths’ star Barry Nash was sent-off for two quickfire yellow cards.
Brian Ryan got their first score of the second-half after 48 minutes, and the lead hit 18 – with Patrickswell reaching 11 different scorers – before Michael Keane ended a 39-minute scoring drought from play entering injury-time.
A final 1-1 flurry from Ryan, including a goaled free, narrowed a deficit which could’ve easily matched Kilmallock’s impressive win but for Patrickswell’s inaccuracies.
The Well advance to play Doon in the semi-finals.
: A Gillane (0-8, 5 frees); T O’Brien (1-1); L Considine, D Byrnes (2 ‘65s), J Kelleher (0-3 each); C Carroll, C Lynch (0-2); P Harty, S O’Brien, J Gillane, D Ahern (0-1 each).
: B Ryan (1-9, 1-8 frees); D O’Neill, Barry Nash, C McSweeney, M Keane (0-1 each).
: B Murray; J Considine, N Foley, M Carmody; S O’Brien, D Byrnes, J Flynn; J Kelleher, C Carroll; A Gillane, C Lynch, K O’Brien; T O’Brien, P Harty, L Considine.
: D Ahern for Harty (44), J Gillane for L Considine (44), B Nolan for A Gillane (47), B Carey for S O’Brien (55), C Kirby for Lynch (55).
: P Butler; P Carroll, M Moynihan, E Quilty; M O’Brien, S O’Neill, D Garry; C McSweeney, Brian Nash; B Ryan, D O’Neill, Barry Nash; E Godfrey, S Garry, B Garry.
: R O’Neill for O’Brien (39), M Keane for B Garry (44), B Walsh for Godfrey (49), B McSweeney for S Garry (53), J Hickey for Moynihan (57).
: Barry Nash (40).
: J O’Halloran (Bruree).