All too easy for ruthless Limerick
Limerick 5-22 Carlow 0-13
It looked like the locals had been out watering sections of the scalded Cullen Park surface in recent days, but there was no stopping the Limerick flood when it arrived.
It was a shock to the system for Carlow six days on from beating Westmeath in the Joe McDonagh Cup final. That was their All-Ireland final, and they celebrated earning promotion back into the Leinster Championship.
There was no sentimentality about Limerick though. A goal after 30 seconds and then two in the space of a minute had them home and hosed by half-time. After the break they kept pushing and added another 15 scores.
The last time Limerick had pushed on this far in the championship was 2014 and they are now only two wins from a first All-Ireland final appearance since 2007. It's a significant milestone for this young outfit.
"It is big, although it's no different to any game we played in the round-robin in Munster and the series of games in the League against Galway, Tipp and Clare," said manager John Kiely.
"There's no real difference to it in that regard, it's just coming into a different time of the year. We've played plenty of teams of the calibre of whoever we face next week. It's a case of getting as ready as we can to put in as good a performance as we can and have a real good go of it."
Kyle Hayes' early goal got Limerick up and running, but in their best spell Carlow tagged on points from Edward Byrne and Denis Murphy to keep in touch. Unfortunately, they also started to miss the target on a regular basis, which meant Limerick pulled clear easily as soon as they found their own form.
That recovery stemmed from the brilliance of Cian Lynch at midfield. Along with Declan Hannon he halted several Carlow forays, while Lynch's accurate, long passing launched several attacks.
Goal No 2 - Graeme Mulcahy's effort - came from one of his long deliveries as did a couple of points, while the bright link play and finishing ability of Tom Morrissey also stood out for the Treaty men.
"We moved the ball quite well through the lines, plenty of support runners coming on, just sometimes the final pass didn't come off," said Kiely.
While Lynch and Morrissey did much of the work out the field, Aaron Gillane was the inspiration inside. His one-game suspension following a red card against Cork resulted in a place on the bench last time out, but he has been Limerick's top man all year and was not going to spend long in reserve.
His brilliant offloading game continually brought his colleagues into play, while his free-taking was accurate and his goal was an exquisite finish.
All that meant that Carlow were a long way second best, and manager Colm Bonnar says he's happy to have identified where they need to improve.
"We would have had a bit more comfort if we had been a bit closer to Limerick and to say, 'we're not that far away', but Limerick kind of showed us up a small bit in areas we'll need to work on," said Bonnar.
"But that's good because it's something that we can work on straight away.
"So I'm delighted to have got this test and the boys will be when they look back on it, so I think it will stand to us well going into the winter in terms of our preparation."
Scorers - Limerick: A Gillane 1-6 (0-2fs), P Casey 1-3, T Morrissey 0-5, G Mulcahy, D Byrnes (0-1 '65') 1-1 each, K Hayes 1-0, G Hegarty 0-2, C Lynch, B Nash, S Flanagan, D O'Donovan 0-1 each. Carlow: D Murphy 0-4 (3fs, 1 '65'), P Abbey, J M Nolan 0-2 each, E Byrne, J Kavanagh, D Byrne (f), C Nolan, S Murphy 0-1 each.
LIMERICK - N Quaid 7; M Casey 8, R McCarthy 7, R English 8; D Byrnes 7, D Hannon 8, D Morrissey 7; W O'Donoghue 7, C Lynch 8; G Hegarty 8, K Hayes 8, T Morrissey 9; S Flanagan 7, A Gillane 9, G Mulcahy 7. Subs: P Casey 8 for Hayes (36), B Nash 7 for Mulcahy (36), D O'Donovan 6 for Lynch (46), S Finn 6 for English (53), S Hickey 6 for Hannon (58).
CARLOW - B Tracey 7; K McDonald 8, P Doyle 7, M Doyle 6; R Coady 6, D English 7, R Kelly 6; J Kavanagh 6, D Byrne 6 (c); JM Nolan 8, P Coady 6, E Byrne 7; C Nolan 7, D Murphy 6, J Doyle 7. Subs: S Murphy 7 for D Murphy (48), C Foley 6 for P Coady (53), R Smithers 6 for C Nolan (56), E Redmond 6 for M Doyle (57), P Abbey 8 for E Byrne (63)
REF - J Keenan (Wicklow).
Subscribe to The Throw-In, Independent.ie's weekly GAA podcast in association with Allianz, for the best in GAA discussion and analysis every week, with some of the biggest names in football and hurling from Joe Brolly, Tomás Ó'Sé and John Mullane.