Limerick laced with class as Waterford lacerated

The All-Ireland champions’ defence is up and running at the second time of asking but if it’s a story you want then let’s start with a woeful Waterford side that finished with 14 men.

Limerick laced with class as Waterford lacerated

[team1]Waterford[/team1][score1]0-10[/score1][team2]Limerick[/team2][score2]2-24[/score2][/score]

The All-Ireland champions’ defence is up and running at the second time of asking but if it’s a story you want then let’s start with a woeful Waterford side that finished with 14 men.

Don’t let that dismissal mislead you. Paraic Fanning’s side were 14 points adrift by the time Pauric Mahony was shown a red card for a wild and nasty pull across the legs of Barry Murphy that screamed frustration.

This was amid an unanswered closing run of 11 points from the visitors as their bench muscled in on the beating after that 60th-minute incident, but those bullets were emptied into a body that had long been cold to the touch.

Waterford’s summer plans, for the second year in a row, are all but shredded with a round of Munster Championship still to play and the growing frequency with which they are shipping this manner of defeat can’t be ignored much longer.

This was their third double-digit loss inside the last two championships and Cork had nine points to spare on them last year.

All-Ireland finalists in 2017, the change of management has done nothing to stave off the sense of drift and decline.

One more point for Limerick – or, indeed, one fewer than the 19 wides they posted – and this would have equalled the 21-point harrowing they suffered against Tipperary in the 2014 Munster final.

This, somehow, felt even worse.

For some locals it was a lower low than the disaster that was their 2008 All-Ireland final gutting at the hands of Kilkenny.

You could see why given the lack of heart and structure and belief that infected them here on home soil.

How bad were they? One point from play in the second-half. Not a single score for the last 22 minutes. We could go on...

The fact that they spent the last ten of those minutes with just 14 men is nothing more than an asterisk.

This is a Waterford side that has lost its way and Austin Gleeson stands as the symbol of that confusion.

Is he better up front or at the back? That was the question that has trailed him for some time now.

The Mount Sion man started at midfield here and promptly blended into the background, an anonymous wraith in white as Limerick’s green-clad elves danced and flicked the sliotar around him and his companions.

When Waterford resurfaced for the second-half Gleeson and Maurice Shanahan – the latter an under-utilised target man on the edge of the Limerick square – had been given the shepherd’s hook.

Fanning confirmed later that there was no injury involved, commenting how Limerick had all but blown Waterford out of the park in midfield in the opening 35 and that the decision to replace Gleeson was down to tactics.

On the back foot after those opening losses to Clare and Tipperary, Waterford began brightly and took a four points to one lead into the eighth-minute against a Limerick side looking to rebound from its own defeat to Cork.

Limerick’s intricate attacks were being frustrated by blocks and bodies – and there was plenty of them – while there was enough decent ball finding its way up the other end to get the scoreboard moving for the Déise.

The wind was significant, blowing more or less at Waterford’s backs, but Limerick’s stickwork and interplay was too good to be corralled completely and they eventually found their rhythm.

When they did the entire game shifted on its axis.

Waterford would go 28 minutes of the first-half without registering a score from play, two Mahony frees being their only source of sustenance.

Limerick would help themselves to 1-8 in that same time frame.

That’s the game right there, even with just six points between them at the break.

Gillane’s opening goal had come in the thick of it, a 17th-minute finish that had fallen into his lap courtesy of a Gearoid Hegarty tee-up and a gallop through open prairie that would be repeated time and again.

Hegarty would claim the second goal just three minutes into the second-half.

Here again was an absence of cover, the St Patrick’s forward freewheeling towards the sticks from the sideline before finding the net.

Last year’s championship had been flooded with stories of comebacks from teams who found themselves nine points down and seemingly one mere nudge from freefall.

Waterford never gave notice of any such intentions.

You could go as far as to say that the home side downed tools as the half wore on – or you would if it wasn’t for crude challenges that could have produced up to three red cards rather than just the one that was proffered.

All of which should temper the talk of Limerick’s return to form. The sense prior to throw-in was that a wounded and lame looking Waterford side was the best game for them to sink their teeth into after Cork.

How right that was.

There were obvious plus points for John Kiely. For a start, Paddy O’Loughlin picked off two fine points on his championship debut from wing-back where Diarmuid Byrnes had been supplying a steady stream of scores throughout the year.

Five of the six starting forwards scored from play and the bench contributed ten points.

More importantly maybe was the work ethic that the attacking divisions demonstrated. Much more Limerick-like.

The midfield, as stated already, dominated. So too a defence that coughed up just five scores from open play and ten in total, though Waterford’s confused and ill-advised balls forward by harassed defenders had a lot to do with that.

Whither Limerick? We still can’t say for sure but they are at least back on track.

Waterford have simply gone off the rails.

Scorers for Waterford:

P Mahony (0-7, 5 frees); J Prendergast, Stephen Bennett and Shane Bennett (all 0-1).

Scorers for Limerick:

A Gillane (1-4, 0-4 frees); S Dowling (0-5, 4 frees); G Hegarty (1-1); K Hayes (0-3); P O’Loughlin, D O’Donovan and P Casey (all 0-2); D Hannon, C Lynch, T Morrissey, D Reidy and B Murphy (all 0-1).

WATERFORD:

S O’Keeffe; N Connors, C Prunty, C Lyons, D Fives, T De Burca, K Moran; J Barron, A Gleeson; P Mahony, S Bennett, J Prendergast; M Kearney, M Shanahan, T Ryan. Subs: S Bennett for Gleeson and M Walsh for Shanahan (both HT); C Gleeson for D Fives (51); P Ryan for Mulcahy (69); S McNulty for Connors (70).

LIMERICK:

N Quaid; S Finn, R English, M Casey; D Morrissey, D Hannon, P O’Loughlin; C Lynch, W O’Donoghue; G Hegarty, K Hayes, T Morrissey; G Mulcahy, A Gillane, P Casey.

Subs:

D O’Donovan for O’Donoghue (50); B Murphy for Gillane (52); S Dowling for T Morrissey (54); D Reidy for Hegarty (61); B O’Halloran for Ryan (64).

Referee:

F Horgan (Tipperary).

Dalo's Hurling Show: Tipp quench the inferno. Kiely's statement. The Déise inquest

Derek McGrath and Ger Cunningham review the weekend's hurling with Anthony Daly

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