AS a guide to their championship meeting in 10weeks time, the outcome of this sixth round NHL game at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday will be of little relevance.
But, considering they wasted so many chances and that centre-back Brian Geary was red-carded 12 minutes into the second-half, it was immensely satisfying for manager Justin McCarthy and his players.
Certainly, while Davy Fitzgerald was prepared to talk up the Shannonsiders’ prospects — “they had a little blip last year but I’m sure they will fancy their chances come June” — the wily McCarthy wasn’t reading anything into their win.
Making the obvious point that championship hurling in front of 50,000 in Thurles will be ‘a whole different ball game,’ he commented: “Today’s result won’t have any consequences either way.’’
Understandably, however, the Limerick boss was delighted with the manner of his team’s deserved hard-earned win — to which Niall Moran made a huge contribution with 1-9 and late substitute Donie Ryan contributed a vital goal. “The game last Sunday (against Cork) probably stood to us. It was important that we finished stronger. We emphasised that throughout the week!’’
For his part, Fitzgerald admitted Waterford had been well off the pace. “We have to have a right good look at ourselves,’’ he said. “Limerick are miles ahead of us at the moment. They are going to be very formidable outfit. I think he (McCarthy) has done a great job. There is a lot of bottle in that team.”
Limerick made all the running over the first quarter, with Seamus Hickey quick to make an impact at midfield and they did just about everything right except maximise their scoring chances.
It saw Paul Browne and James Ryan both waste goal opportunities in the 11th and 14th minutes. In Ryan’s case, goalkeeper Clinton Hennessy made a good save at the expense of a ‘65, but while Moran converted that to put them five points in front, in reality the margin between the sides at this stage should have been double that.
For all that Waterford could have gone in front as early as the 20th minute but for an impressive double save by the Limerick ‘keeper Brian Murray, first in stopping a shot hit off the ground by Eoin Kelly and then smothering a second effort by John Mullane from the rebound. But, Kelly had Waterford on level terms from 21 yards free which had been awarded after a hurley was thrown at Mullane.
Scores were to be level for the second of six times when Mullane (in his first outing after the club campaign) put over a great shot from far out, but the unerring Moran scored twice to see Limerick finish 1-7 to 1-5 ahead at the interval.
Scores were level for the fifth time in the 47th minute – through the improving Gary Hurney, now at full-forward – when Limerick had Geary red-carded for retaliation. Limerick fell behind for the first time at the three-quarters stage before Moran got a deserved equaliser immediately following Shanahan’s score.
By then, Waterford were doing better with a more active midfield and a re-arranged attack, which had Eoin Kelly on the left wing and more involved. Michael Walsh was forceful at centre-back and substitute Kevin Moran was a good addition to a full-back line in which Eoin Murphy was much more prominent. As well, Richie Foley was to the forefront at left-half back.
The game turned on Donie Ryan’s opportunist 56th minute goal, which came from a long ball from Mark O’Riordan. By now Hickey was filling in more than adequately at centre-back and Donal O’Grady put in a big effort at midfield. When the game was there for the winning, it was the dependability of Limerick’s covering in defence which decided it.
Scorers for Limerick: N. Moran 1-9 (0-3 frees, 0-2 ‘65’s); D. Ryan 1-0; J. Ryan, S. Hickey (free), D. Sheehan, G. O’Mahony and J. O’Brien 0-1 each.
Waterford: E. Kelly 1-4 (1-2 frees); J. Mullane 0-3; G. Hurney 0-2; S. Walsh, D. Shanahan, E. McGrath and R. Foley 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: B. Murray; D. Reale, S. Lucey, S. Walsh; M. O’Riordan, B. Geary (capt), G. O’Mahony; D. O’Grady, S. Hickey; P. Browne, J. Ryan, N. Moran; A. O’Shaughnessy, D. Breen, P. Tobin.
Subs: D. Sheehan for Tobin (26th minute); M. O’Brien for Browne (45 th); *D. Ryan (yellow card replacement for Breen, 51st); *J. O’Brien (yellow card replacement for M. O’Brien, 71st)
WATERFORD: C. Hennessy; E. Murphy, A. Kearney, N. Connors; J. Murray, M. Walsh, R. Foley; S. O’Sullivan, J. Nagle; S. Walsh, S. Molumphy (capt), G. Hurney; J. Mullane, S. Prendergast, E. Kelly.
Subs: K. Moran for Kearney (second half); D. Shanahan for Prendergast (48 th); *T. Ryan for Hurney (yellow card replacement 56th); E. McGrath for Walsh (59th).
Referee: C. McAllister (Cork).
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