Galway suffer first defeat in 16 games as Limerick seal promotion
Limerick 2-18 Galway 1-19
It was more a roar of relief than exultation from the Limerick supporters afterwards, but when the full-time whistle sounded in Pearse Stadium, Limerick’s time in the second tier was over, the All-Ireland champions had lost for the first time in 16 games and 13 months, and John Kiely’s side had announced their summer intentions.
In the second level of league hurling since 2010, and a Division 1B team since the league was reformed a year later, Limerick have long struggled to meet the lofty potential of their various underage and club teams.
This was a performance full of classy hurling up front, tight defence, intensity and some borderline physicality, all ingredients that are critical to any winning team. Galway will feel hard done by over some refereeing decisions, but they got off lightly themselves on occasion as referee Cathal McAlister employed a ‘let them play away’ philosophy.
In the last 15 minutes it is hard to remember Galway coming out on top of a 50-50 tussle, such was the ferocity of Limerick’s hurling, and when Cian Lynch powered through the middle two minutes from time, they took the lead for the first time. All this was achieved without their ten Na Piarsaigh players, despite trailing by eight points at half-time and considering the shocking 17 wides they hit over the 70 minutes. No wonder John Kiely was thrilled afterwards.
“It is the biggest result we have had to date,” said Kiely, whose side face neighbours Clare in the quarter-final.
“Will it count for much next July? Probably not. We are out of 1B which I am delighted for. Particularly for the players – it is an important step in their development.
“Something to look forward to next spring already. In the overall sense, it is a big confidence boost. That inner doubt is definitely going.”
On the bright side for Galway, David Burke and Joe Canning made their first appearances of the year, but Burke was very lucky not to be sent off before half-time for his involvement in a brawl with Diarmuid Byrnes. Byrnes was far from the innocent party when he felled Burke and tried to haul him back to his feet, but Burke’s reaction was reckless and he should have been sent off.
Limerick can certainly take heart from the way they outfought last year’s champions though, keeping Galway to just a single point from play, and four in total, in the decisive second half.
Despite the eight-point deficit at half-time, Limerick created plenty of chances in the opening period but 11 wides in the same period should have cost them more. That being said, Kiely knew there wasn’t too much tinkering needed, especially with the aid of the breeze to come
“We looked to get a couple of scores and follow a score with a score and garner momentum. We had the breeze and we were well set up defensively. We knew we wouldn’t concede a lot. We just needed to get the scores on the board,” said Kiely.
Limerick got the fast start to the second half they wished for, Aaron Gillane and David Reidy getting the first two scores after the restart and while Jason Flynn responded for Galway, three frees on the bounce from Gillane and Kyle Hayes’ deflected goal in the 48th minute left just a point between the sides.
The gap was still a point ten minutes later when Seamus Flanagan, who was superb throughout, finally drew Limerick level. Joe Canning was sprung off the bench to aid Galway and while he pointed a '65, Limerick always looked as if they had an answer.
Cian Lynch burst through the middle in the 68th minute to put Limerick ahead for the first time before substitute Pat Ryan tapped over the final score.
For his part, Galway manager Micheál Donoghue refused to overplay the loss and his side’s failure to get out of Division 1B.
“The intensity levels in the second half weren’t what they were in the first. We had a poor day at the office and, to be fair to Limerick, they created a lot of space and when the scoring chances came they took them,” said Donoghue.
“If you even revert back to the first half, they still had a lot of wides. But as I said, for us, it’s just another game, another game in the bank and move on.”
Galway had been very impressive in the first half, making a lightning-fast start to the game, Cathal Mannion’s goal helping them to a 1-3 to 0-0 lead after just the third minute.
Limerick were given a route back into the contest when Aaron Gillane converted a ninth-minute penalty but Galway continued to pull away with the likes of Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn in excellent form.
That all changed after half-time, however, and while Galway still have a league quarter-final against Wexford to look forward to, they may look back at this as a chance missed to get out of Division 1B.
Scorers – Limerick: A Gillane 1-7 (1-0 pen, 6f, 1 sl); S Flanagan 0-5; K Hayes 1-0; D Reidy 0-2; G Hegarty, G Mulcahy, C Lynch & P Ryan 0-1 each. Galway: J Flynn 0-7 (6f); C Mannion 1-4; C Cooney, G Lally (1 sl), J Coen 0-2 each; J Canning (’65) & D Burke 0-1 each.
Limerick – N Quaid 7; S Finn 7, R McCarthy 8, R English 7; D Byrnes 8, D Hannon 6, D Morrissey 7; P Browne 8, C Lynch 9; G Hegarty 5, T Morrissey 6, D Reidy 7; A Gillane 8, S Flanagan 9, B Murphy 8. Subs: K Hayes 8 for Hegarty (18), P O’Loughlin for Byrnes (35-40, blood), G Mulcahy 7 for Flanagan (60), P Ryan 6 for Reidy (63), C Ryan 6 for Browne (66).
Galway – J Skehill 7; A Tuohy 5, P Mannion 5, S Bannon 6; G Lally 7, G McInerney 6, A Harte 6; J Coen 7, D Burke 7; S Maloney 6, C Mannion 9, C Whelan 7; N Burke 5, C Cooney 6, J Flynn 7.
Subs: D Glennon 6 for D Burke (25-29, blood) & for Flynn (58), J Hanbury 5 for Bannon (44-47, blood) & for Tuohy (48), J Canning 5 for Maloney (53), S Cooney 5 for Lally (54), B Concannon for N Burke (67).
Ref – C McAllister (Cork)