Limerick centre-forward Gearoid Hegarty was the star of the show on Saturday night as he inspired his side to a facile win over Laois in O'Moore Park.
he St Patrick's man finished the game with 2-6 to his name, all from play, after a very impressive 70 minutes. Shane Dowling, making his first start of the year, added another 1-8 as Limerick simply overwhelmed Laois.
The opening stages of the game had been quite evenly contested, but once Limerick started to flex their muscles midway through the first half, there was only really one team in it. Laois, to their credit, kept plugging away and finished with a decent tally of 1-19, but their defence was unable to cope with a rampant Limerick attack.
Hegarty in particular caused them problems, with Laois trying three different players on him in the first half.
The game started at breakneck speed, the teams level at 0-3 apiece after just five minutes.
Hegarty hit two of those scores for Limerick, as his size and strength on the Limerick puckouts quickly became a potent weapon. He then set up the opening goal of the game, offloading to last year's minor captain Kyle Hayes in the penalty area, and he tapped home.
Laois were undeterred, and the impressive Aaron Dunphy, making his first start for the hosts, kept them in touch. There were still only four points in it, 1-7 to 0-6, after 18 minutes, but Limerick's superiority came to the fore after that.
Hegarty and Dowling (free) pointed before the former charged through the Laois defence, passing off to an unmarked Dowling, and he fired to the roof of the net.
Dowling, Hegarty and Colin Ryan all added points as Laois struggled to cope with the waves of attacks, and Kyle Hayes scored a brilliant third goal for the Treaty men just before half time. Limerick led 3-14 to 0-10 at the interval, and the game was all but over.
To Laois's credit, they came out impressively at the start of the second half and were the better team for the opening ten minutes or so. They were chipping away at Limerick's lead when they were thrown the slimmest of lifelines, Neil Foyle being hauled down for a penalty in the 43rd minute.
Goalkeeper Enda Rowland made the long run up to take it, and it proved to be a worthwhile trip as he arrowed a shot into the bottom corner.
Laois were still a long way back, but the goal had given them cause for hope. Unfortunately for them, it was soon extinguished by a ruthless response from Limerick.
Colin Ryan got their fourth goal, just seconds after Laois had wasted a good goalscoring opportunity of their own at the other end. Before Laois had a chance to reset themselves, Hegarty was adding a fifth goal, as the competitive element dissipated from the game.
It descended into target practice for Limerick after that, with Hegarty adding a sixth goal late on to bring his total to 2-6, and wrap up a 29-point victory.
Scorers - Limerick: G Hegarty 2-6; S Dowling 1-8 (6f); K Hayes 2-2; P Casey, R Lynch (2f) 0-4 each; C Ryan 1-1; W O'Donoghue 0-3; J Ryan 0-2; D Hannon, D Morrissey, P Ryan 0-1 each. Laois: R King (4f, 65) 0-6; C Dwyer (1 sl) 0-5; A Dunphy 0-4; E Rowland (pen) 1-0; B Conroy 0-2 (2f); N Foyle, W Dunphy 0-1 each.
Limerick - B Hennessy 7; S Cahill 7, R English 7, S Finn 6; S Hickey 6, D Hannon 7, D Morrissey 7; D O'Donovan 8, W O'Donoghue 8; S Dowling 8, G Hegarty 9, J Ryan 7; K O'Brien 6, K Hayes 8, C Ryan 7. Subs: D Byrnes 7 for Hannon (24, inj), T Condon 6 for Finn (41, inj), P Casey 7 for O'Brien (47), R Lynch 7 for Dowling (47), P Ryan 6 for O'Donovan (50).
Laois - E Rowland 7; C Healy 6, L Bergin 7, D Palmer 6; S Downey 6, P Purcell 6, R Mullaney 6; C Taylor 5, B Conroy 5; A Dunphy 7, C Dwyer 7, P Whelan 6; W Dunphy 7, N Foyle 6, R King 6. Subs: Aidan Corby 5 for Whelan (49), Eric Killeen 6 for Mullaney (57), Eoin Doyle 6 for Downey (59), Stephen Bergin for Conroy (65), Patrick Keating for Taylor (70).
Ref - Brian Gavin (Offaly).