Defending champions Limerick’s “in it to win it” approach under John Kiely again manifested itself as they extended their winning League run to six games going back to last season.
While there was some solace for Galway that Joe Canning’s hand injury doesn’t appear to be serious, manager Shane O’Neill revealing he lost feeling after “a bang in the nerve… he’ll be fine”, there was little comfort in how they were easily dismissed by a Limerick team who also had their injury woes.
Richie English and Declan Hannon were whipped off but Kiely reported their injuries as minor. “They’re not serious at all, just precautionary really more than anything. At this time of the year, I said it only last week again, if in doubt get them out.”
Kiely will take great encouragement from the volume of scoring opportunities his team created here in front of a fine 14,151 LIT Gaelic Grounds crowd.
Add their 15 wides, three shots that fell short, and a couple of goal chances and the total came to 40. Not too shabby for the first weekend in February on what was a testing surface.
Galway, on the other hand, didn’t strike a wide until the 27th minute. And yet they led by two points after 23 minutes as Limerick failed to take advantage of two early goal openings, David Dempsey guilty of failing to convert both.
Six points without reply, though, gave Limerick the cushion they merited and it might have been a couple more had Seamus Flanagan not blazed over a shot having been teed up by Graeme Mulcahy.
“I thought we could have had another five scores in the first half, we just broke down at times,” said Kiely.
They put a very high press on us and made it really difficult for us to work the ball out of our defence but that did create a bit more space for us when we did get out.
“But the odd time we didn’t and we failed with a handling or a touch error and it broke down and in the transition then we conceded a score but all told, I thought we worked the ball way better and our intensity levels were a lot higher than last week in the first half.”
Galway did pull one point back before the break to make it 0-12 to 0-9 but having faced the wind things were going to get easier for Limerick as they most certainly did less than two minutes into the half when Dempsey beat Seán Loftus in the air to claim a Flanagan pass after Mulcahy won the ball back. It was a case of third time lucky for the Na Piarsaigh man Dempsey as he finished this chance.
“That was a fantastic ball by Seamus (Flanagan) across, great recovery by Graeme (Mulcahy),” smiled Kiely. “A really hard ball to defend, I’ve been there on those balls and you don’t want to be contesting a one on one with a really good forward on the edge of your own box.
“You can’t make a mistake and David’s got a great hand so once he caught it that was it, it was lights out so great ball, great goal and we’re getting the few goals now.
“Really enjoyed getting a couple of goals last week and today getting a goal as well, we’ve got to keep that coming and we’ve got to get a couple of goals each week, that’s something that we’re really working on.”
Limerick were wayward for a period after and Galway cut the margin in half to three points. But Canning’s departure took some bite out of the game and the six-point advantage was restored by the 58th minute as William O’Donoghue fired over seconds after substitute Aaron Gillane became the seventh forward to score from play.
Jason Flynn hit the crossbar with a free in the closing stages but it would have made only a cosmetic difference to the scoreline. They had been beaten well although their manager O’Neill intimated the scoreline was unfair on the losers.
“The disappointing thing is there was seven or eight in the end. I thought we worked very hard throughout the game. They probably had a small bit extra quality in finishing than we had which obviously showed in the scoreboard but we hadn’t had an intense game like that. It will definitely stand to us.
“The goal was the difference for a good while there, it kept them out of reach a small bit and maybe if Conor (Whelan) had success earlier on and Jayo (Flynn) not hit the crossbar it might have made the scoreboard that bit tighter. But I think Limerick fully deserved the win.”
He took comfort from giving new faces more game-time. “Shane Cooney getting the full match and TJ (Brennan) and Diarmuid (Kilcommins) played a huge part in the game again.”
D. Reidy (0-7, 4 frees); D. Dempsey (1-1); G. Hegarty, T. Morrissey, A. Gillane (1 free) (0-2 each); D. Hannon, G. Mulcahy, S. Flanagan, W. O’Donoghue, D. O’Connell (0-1 each).
J. Canning (0-7, 4 frees); C. Whelan (0-2); C. Mannion, A. Harte, S. Cooney, C. Cooney (free), S. Bleahane (0-1 each).
N. Quaid; A. Costello, S. Finn, R. English; D. Morrissey, D. Hannon (c), B. Nash; D. O’Donovan, W. O’Donoghue; T. Morrissey, D. Reidy, G. Hegarty; S. Flanagan, D. Dempsey, G. Mulcahy.
C. Lynch for D. O’Donovan (blood, 4-7); T. Condon for R. English (injury, h-t); D. Byrnes for D. Hannon (injury, 40); A. Gillane for S. Flanagan (55); D. O’Connell for D. Dempsey (60); B. Ryan for D. Reidy (65).
E. Murphy; S. Loftus, T.J. Brennan, G. McInerney; P. Mannion (c), S. Cooney, A. Harte; A. Tuohey, S. Linnane; D. Kilcommins, C. Mannion, J. Canning; J. Flynn, C. Whelan, B. Concannon
C. Cooney for B. Concannon (h-t); S. Bleahane for J. Canning (injury, 47); Darragh Burke for D. Kilcommins (54); P. Killeen for S. Loftus (55); J. Grealish for S. Linnane (65).
C. Lyons (Cork).
The game in 60 seconds
David Dempsey’s goal early in the second half gave Limerick the cushion they needed and deserved for the hurling they had done up to that juncture.
The depth of this Limerick panel. They may only have had 24 players yesterday but when you think who they are missing, Cian Lynch being given less than three minutes as a blood substitute and what they were still able to produce Limerick have luxuries many of their challengers don’t.
The Limerick forwards - eight of the nine who saw action scored from play.
The Galway inside forwards. Brian Concannon was hauled off at half-time but Conor Whelan and Jason Flynn could easily have made way too such was the ineffectiveness.
The extent of all three injuries were played down by the managers. Joe Canning might have tweaked a nerve in his finger while challenging for a ball while Declan Hannon and Richie English were also removed from the fray but Shane O’Neill and John Kiely were not concerned by their setbacks.
The teams lined out in the positions they were named only for Limerick to shake up their attack soon after the throw-in. Gearóid McInerney tracked the roaming Seamus Flanagan when he might have preferred to remain at the edge of the square. Galway pushed up hard on Limerick but it was always going to have consequences.
Darragh O’Donovan was given the nod by the broadcasters TG4 but Tom Morrissey was the stand-out player from this quarter. David Dempsey was sharp too although Graeme Mulcahy’s energy once again stood out in the full-forward line.
A spiky enough game but Colm Lyons was never in any difficulty.
After one table-topper, Limerick have another against Waterford at the Ennis Road venue on Saturday week under lights. Galway face Tipperary in Salthill the following afternoon.