Aaron Gillane hits 0-9 as Limerick cruise past Tipp with second-half blitz
Limerick 1-21 Tipperary 1-14
There is no sign of the honeymoon ending any time soon for All-Ireland champions Limerick. For the first time in a decade they top Division 1A after hammering Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds.
Liam Sheehy's side did beat Limerick in the Munster league in December but this was an altogether more prestigious fixture and it showed. The home side completely dominated the second half as they overwhelmed the visitors who only managed 0-3 from play after the break.
Aaron Gillane top scored for Limerick with an 0-9 tally while wing-back Diarmuid Byrnes was the official man of the match. Aside from attending to his defensive duties, he scored 0-4.
Winning the MacCarthy Cup can work wonders for a team's confidence and John Kiely's side are on a roll, even though they have a lot less training done than their rivals.
Even in their less successful days Limerick nearly always raised their game against their next door neighbours. They kicked off their never-to-be-forgotten summer campaign by beating Tipperary in the Munster championship and now clearly have the psychological edge over the Premier County.
Though Hurler of the Year Cian Lynch didn't start – he made a cameo appearance late on - Limerick still fielded 11 of their starting All-Ireland final team whereas Tipp retained just eight of the side beaten by the Treaty County when they clashed in the Munster championship last May.
On a bitterly cold night it was noticeable from the start how strict referee Sean Cleere was enforcing technical breaches of the rules – he penalised three illegal hand-pass and three over-carrying infringements in the first half.
It was 0-2 each after ten minutes with the home side still looking for their first score from play. Tipp lost wing forward Dan McCormack after just 12 minutes with Jason Forde taking his place.
Padraic Maher was emerging as the most dominant figure in a low-key contest and his side went back in front in the 19th minute when Seamus Callanan nailed a free from midfield after fluffing two earlier efforts.
The scoring rate improved significantly in the second quarter. Darragh O'Donovan had Limerick's first point from play after 22 minutes to give them the lead for the first time.
But it proved short-lived. In the next play Willie Connors combined with Patrick Maher who found the net from close range.
Jason Forde ought to have had a second goal moments later but he dragged his effort across the face of the goal. Tipp hit the next two scores to move four points clear but Limerick hit back.
A speculative shot from Tom Morrissey looked to be drifting left of the post but Graeme Mulcahy followed the flight of the sliothar and flicked it past Tipp goalkeeper Brian Hogan.
A pointed Gillane free had the sides level for the fifth time, though Tipp outscored the home side 2-1 in the four minutes of injury time played to lead 1-9 to 1-8 at the break.
Limerick again operated with just five forwards in the second half but edged back in front with points from Mulcahy and Byrnes (free) before Callanan's fourth converted free tied up the scores for a fifth time. As the fog descended on the ground and the temperature hovered around five degrees scores were at a premium.
With ten minutes left Limerick had moved three points clear with the visitors' only score from play in the half coming from Jason Forde. A brilliant point from the excellent Aaron Gillane put them four points up as the Tipp's wides tally in the half crept up to nine with Callanan's free taking being particularly wayward.
The Tipp forwards made no headway against Limerick and while protecting their goal the overworked Tipp defence couldn't contain the home side who have moved five points clear by the end of normal time. Tipp finished the game with 14 men – they had their quota of substitutes used when Barry Heffernan went off injured.
The take-home message for Tipperary is that they have a lot of work to do in the months ahead whereas Limerick have all the momentum and their work rate in the second half in the freezing conditions was very impressive.
Limerick: N Quaid; T Condon, S Finn, R English; D Byrnes (0-4, 3f), D Hannon, D Morrissey (0-1; D O'Donovan (0-1), C Ryan; G Hegarty, T Morrissey (0-2), C Boylan (0-2); A Gillane (0-9, 5f, 2 65), K Downes, G Mulcahy (1-1). Subs: P Casey (0-1) for Downes 44m; P O'Loughlin for Hannon 49m; K Hayes for Boylan 56m, P Ryan for Mulcahy 63m, C Lynch for O'Donovan 68m
Tipperary: B Hogan; D Maher, J Barry, A Flynn; B Heffernan (0-1), R Maher (0-1); P Maher; R Byrne (0-1), M Breen (0-1); D McCormack, N McGrath (0-1), W Connors (0-1); J Morris, S Callanan (0-5, 5f), P Maher (1-0). Subs: J Forde (0-3) for McCormack 12m; N O'Meara for Byrne 49m; K O'Dwyer for D Maher 54m; M Kehoe for Morris 54m, J McGrath for Breen 62m
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny)