Thursday 23 March 2017

Limerick send out warning to old guard

Cyril Farrell

ANOTHER reminder, if one was needed, as to the value of the Munster championship. And at Semple Stadium yesterday, there might also have been a glimpse into the future.

There were players on display from both teams who look like they have big prospects.

Pauric Mahony and Darragh Fives for Waterford and Kevin Downes for Limerick were particularly impressive and they are names that will be part of plenty more cracking Munster championship games in the future. But it was no surprise that it was the guile of John Mullane (admittedly with a bit of luck from a deflection) that saw Waterford through eventually.

It was the extra experience that Davy Fitzgerald could call upon that probably saw the Deise through a stern test of their credentials.

Mullane finished the day with 2-2 including the decisive late goal, but by his own high standards, he didn't have his best performance -- although he was still the man Waterford people would have wanted the sliotar to fall to when they had to go for goal at the death.

Seamus Prendergast, Jamie Nagle and Eoin Kelly were the substitutes and they have all been around the block before and it was Kelly's measured cross-field pass that opened the door for Mullane's goal.

On a couple of occasions during the game, it didn't look like they would require a late intervention. Waterford looked like they were in control at various stages but Limerick kept coming back at them with goals at the right time.

The concession of those goals will be a worry for Fitzgerald -- but he has time to work on that. They'll be hoping to get Liam Lawlor back to increase his options in defence, while the loss of Richie Foley yesterday morning might also have unsettled his side.

During the game, Davy was quick to remedy the problems Downes was causing by switching Michael 'Brick' Walsh back into full-back to dampen his influence. Downes, who hurls in NUI Galway as a fresher these days, had less joy from then on and Limerick had to work so much harder for their scores.

Limerick didn't look like a team that had been playing Division 2 all spring, which is normally a major handicap for teams when it comes to championship.

The first half was probably a little disappointing for them overall and they squandered a few chances that they will feel cost them in the end.

Limerick had been reported to be moving better in the last few weeks and I saw them against Galway a couple of weeks ago and it was clear they were making big strides.

They'll be very disappointed with yesterday, but it's 70 minutes of hurling that will bring them on. And on this form, they're another dangerous side in the qualifiers, which is quickly turning into a shark pool.

There's not much more that can be said about Kilkenny. Wexford seemed set for an ambush after Kilkenny's league final showing, the U-21 side's defeat to the Slaneysiders and the footballers impressive win over Westmeath in the curtain-raiser.

But if Wexford fans had a renewed sense of optimism at throw-in, it quickly drained away as Kilkenny took control. Michael Fennelly was impressive in midfield, particularly as he was just back from injury and the four debutants Brian Cody named slotted into the side seamlessly.

Henry Shefflin tapped over the frees and got a score from play. The 70 minutes under his belt is the most important thing though. In fact, the whole starting forward line was very impressive as a unit, with Henry roaming in and out of the half and full-forward lines.

They still have Tommy Walsh to come back in and Cody is building a head of steam up for his side that will, once again, go a very long way in the championship. On this form, neither Dublin nor Galway will be looking forward to a Leinster final showdown.

Irish Independent

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