Wednesday 26 June 2019

Cyril Farrell: 'Waterford must turn Walsh Park into a cauldron to have any Treaty hope'

John Kiely’s Limerick team may have suffered from a touch of complacency. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
John Kiely’s Limerick team may have suffered from a touch of complacency. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

A bottom of the Munster table clash in Walsh Park - who would have thought it before the start of the championship?

OK, so let's not be over-dramatic in Limerick's case, since they have only played the first of four games. Still, they would have been expecting to travel to Waterford with a two-point cushion underneath them.

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Instead, the pressure is greater than expected as defeat tomorrow could well end their Munster Championship ambitions and make elimination from the All-Ireland a possibility.

Limerick supporters would have laughed at suggestions that the defence of the All-Ireland title might end in the Munster round-robin, but there are no guarantees in such a highly-competitive group.

I don't expect Limerick to lose tomorrow, but they will need to be a good deal better than they were against Cork to get through a test which really is make-or-break for Waterford's summer. If they lose, their championship ambitions are gone and, for the second year in a row, their final game would be for pride only.

In fact, defeat could impact on 2020 too as Páraic Fanning would probably opt for an extensive panel overhaul. Of course, he's not thinking about that now, but rather how to do to Limerick what Cork did so effectively.

Homework

Credit to Cork, they not only had their homework done, they got it right too. Limerick like to build through the lines with their snappy passing game but it only works well if the opposition accommodate it. Cork didn't. They pushed up on Limerick's puck-outs, closing down Nickie Quaid's short-range targets, forcing him to go longer into direct-contest territory, where Cork fared well.

At the other end, Anthony Nash fired long deliveries in the direction of Aidan Walsh, Séamus Harnedy and Co. They weren't especially worried if they didn't catch them, but they made sure the Limerick half-backs didn't.

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That turned it in to a ground war, which suited Cork. Limerick wing-backs Diarmaid Byrnes and Dan Morrissey are good under the high ball, but Cork counteracted that. Declan Hannon likes to drop back to provide cover for the full-back, but that didn't work too well either against Cork.

Limerick's half-back trio are at their best when coming on to the ball, but Cork disrupted that part of their game very cleverly and the rest followed. Fanning will, no doubt, have replayed clips of that several times.

In fairness to Limerick, it was their first Munster outing, whereas Cork were having their second game. And while they lost to Tipperary a week earlier, they benefited from being involved in such a high-tempo game.

Also, Limerick were coming off a league success, which might have led to a touch of complacency. It can be sub-conscious thing, but when everyone is telling a squad how good they are, there's always a chance that they will drop their guard a little.

Combined with it being their first Munster game against a Cork team which was all riled up after the defeat by Tipp, they were vulnerable.

You can take it that John Kiely didn't spare them, pointing out that whatever they did last year will not be good enough in this championship.

Waterford expected to have at least two points going into this game. After easily beating Clare in the league quarter-final, they would have fancied themselves to harness the Walsh Park factor in the championship too, but instead they were chasing the game all day and eventually came up just short.

Losing Conor Gleeson to a red card in the first half against Tipperary left them with a challenge they were unlikely to pass. So now it's down to what is a good old-fashioned Munster championship game for them, one they must win to stay in contention.

It's a day they need the Waterford crowd to get behind them like never before and make Walsh Park a cauldron. Even then, I suspect that Limerick will have too much for them.

Tipperary are the form team of the championship so far and while they can expect Clare to grind into them more than Cork or Waterford did, they are capable of picking up two more points which would be enough to book a place in the final.

* * *

I will be in Tullamore today for Offaly v Antrim, a rivalry played out in much different circumstances to what it used to be. It's 30 years this summer since Antrim stunned the hurling world by beating Offaly, the Leinster champions, in the All-Ireland semi-final.

How times have changed. Today's losers will be in danger of dropping to the third tier.

It's unfortunate for Kevin Martin, a man who gave so much to Offaly hurling, that his management term ended as it did, but now that it has happened, the switch to Joachim Kelly could be just what Offaly need at this difficult time.

He won't be thinking of dropping down a level, but rather about beating Antrim and Kerry, which could well be enough to get Offaly to the final and offer a chance of returning to the Leinster Championship. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if that's exactly what happens.

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