Limerick 3-23 Waterford 1-18: A game unlikely to surface in end-of-year highlights shows, this NHL semi-final mightn’t make midweek on your television’s recording device if you’re looking to make room for Masterchef, but Waterford won’t mind.
The reigning league champions had 11 points to spare over Limerick at the end, having exploded past the men in green in the second half, hitting three goals to help them on their way to the NHL final for the second year in a row, where they’ll face Clare.
After a lacklustre first half, which saw Limerick lead by one at the break, 0-12 to 0-11, Waterford surged to victory on the back of a 1-5 to 0-1 run of scores in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
In typical fashion, Waterford manager Derek McGrath was keen to give the credit for that burst to his players.
“We didn’t really talk to them about that at half-time, we spoke ahead of the game about being more attack-minded.
“We felt we were close to getting that right in the first half, Jake (Dillon) had a pop pass to Brick (Walsh) and someone else had a pass . . . we spoke about mixing that with hard work, we felt we weren’t working hard enough.
“We wanted them to work harder but also to think while they were out there. They did very well in the second half.”
Accurate enough. Waterford were competent in the first half but they sparkled in the second, Shane Bennett winning and converting a penalty to set them on their way.
They also pushed up and pressurised Limerick on their own puck-outs, with the result that when Limerick made a recovery in the second half with three unanswered points, Waterford effected two turnovers for relatively cheap points to stem that comeback.
Their goal from man of the match Patrick Curran, after neat interplay between Brian O’Halloran and Brick Walsh, ended the game as a contest: a late green flag from Tom Devine — typically, from very close quarters — was, like Shane Dowling’s goaled free for Limerick, simply work for the scoreboard operators.
“It’s difficult,” said TJ Ryan afterwards, the Limerick manager clearly disappointed by the manner of the defeat.
“Obviously we made a poor start to the second half, conceding the goal. I thought we had plenty of bodies around it for the three goals, thought we had plenty of bodies around there.
“Very disappointing — I know there was a wind there in the second half but still very disappointing for our lads to take.
“I thought we were set up right, we had plenty of bodies back there, and to concede three goals . . . tough to take.”
It was certainly the kind of day when you’d kill for a goal to kindle the game early on, but in the first half that wasn’t forthcoming. Still, the signs were always ominous for Limerick — McGrath was right to point out in that first half Waterford were a just-mistimed pass away from a dangerous overlap three times.
In this newspaper over the weekend TJ Ryan acknowledged Limerick’s failure to get into the top division, and the effect of being marooned in the second tier was all too obvious after half-time. It leaves Ryan with a task on his hands to get his side right for the championship, particularly as they await the winners of Cork-Tipperary, who will naturally be battle-hardened.
In the other corner Waterford will reflect on the goals created, and the goals which might have been created, and will face the league final, and will look further down the track, with some confidence.
Scorers for Waterford:
P. Curran (1-10, 7 frees, 2 65s), S. Bennett (1-3, 1-0 pen); T. Devine (1-1); A. Gleeson (0-3, 1 free); C. Dunford (0-2); T. de Burca, D. Fives, K. Moran, B. O’Halloran, T. Devine (0-1 each).
Scorers for Limerick:
R. Lynch (0-7, frees); S. Dowling (1-1, frees); T. Morrissey (0-3); D. Byrnes, B. Nash (0-2 each); P. Browne, J. Ryan, T. Condon (0-1 each).
S. O’Keeffe; S. Fives, B. Coughlan, N. Connors; P. Mahony, T. de Burca, D. Fives; J. Barron, K. Moran (c); M. Walsh, A. Gleeson, J. Dillon; P. Curran, S. Bennett, C. Dunford.
Subs for Waterford:
B. O’Halloran for Dunford (48); S. McNulty for S. Fives (55); T. Devine for Dillon (58); P. Mahony for Walsh (65); S. O’Sullivan for Moran, 67.
N. Quaid (c); S. O’Brien, R. McCarthy, R. English; P. O’Brien, D. Byrnes, R. Lynch; G. O’Mahony, P. Browne; G. Hegarty, J. Ryan, C Lynch; B. Nash, K. Downes, T. Morrissey.
Subs for Limerick:
J. Fitzgibbon for Hegarty (48); T. Condon for S. O’Brien (50); D. Hannon for Downes (57); S. Dowling for P. O’Brien (60); G. Mulcahy for R. Lynch (65).
B. Kelly (Westmeath).
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