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Hegarty stars as Treaty set up semi date with perfect five from five

Limerick 1-21 Waterford 1-17, Allianz NHL Division 1

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Close Call: Waterford goalkeeper Shaun O’Brien manages to get down and prevent Limerick’s David Dempsey squeezing in a shot at the near post during Saturday night’s Allianz NHL Division 1, Group A clash at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Close Call: Waterford goalkeeper Shaun O’Brien manages to get down and prevent Limerick’s David Dempsey squeezing in a shot at the near post during Saturday night’s Allianz NHL Division 1, Group A clash at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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Close Call: Waterford goalkeeper Shaun O’Brien manages to get down and prevent Limerick’s David Dempsey squeezing in a shot at the near post during Saturday night’s Allianz NHL Division 1, Group A clash at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Limerick, as Frank McCourt once told the world, is notoriously susceptible to rain. True to form, it came tumbling down from the grey skies over the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening, but a home side recently returned from a training camp in Portugal still maintained their recent supremacy over Waterford.

The result saw them finish their group matches with a perfect winning record and a performance, while not perfect, that pleased manager John Kiely.

Kiely felt that the hard work done on the training ground may have contributed to a little labour in their movement.

"I still think there is a little bit of 'dead leg' in us at the moment," he stated, but acknowledged the difficult playing conditions.

Their last loss in League or Championship to Waterford was in 2016 - a League semi-final - and last year they inflicted bruising defeats on the same opposition in the League decider and Munster Championship.

Margin

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Jack Fagan scores a goal for Waterford despite the efforts of Limerick's Dan Morrissey. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Jack Fagan scores a goal for Waterford despite the efforts of Limerick's Dan Morrissey. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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Jack Fagan scores a goal for Waterford despite the efforts of Limerick's Dan Morrissey. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

They never looked likely to alter that winning sequence before a crowd of 9,000, although the margin was closer than it should have been and didn't adequately reflect their control of the play.

For Waterford, there was the consolation of a fighting performance, a refusal to genuflect and go easily, with a sprinkling of new players and some key figures absent - including the suspended Kevin Moran and Austin Gleeson.

Liam Cahill has tried over 30 players in the League so far, in his first season in charge, and still managed to lead them into the quarter finals next weekend. Slowly the county's spirit is being replenished after two nightmare years.

Cahill referred to his side's "battling" qualities. "A few positives," he nodded, "the way we didn't panic, it looked like a comprehensive defeat and halfway through the second half we gathered our shape again."

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Spectators watch as Aaron Gillane scores a point for Limerick. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Spectators watch as Aaron Gillane scores a point for Limerick. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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Spectators watch as Aaron Gillane scores a point for Limerick. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Limerick carried far greater threat and menace with Geraróid Hegarty giving a stirring display, scoring 1-5. Graeme Mulcahy piped up with four from play and Aaron Gillane hit seven - five from frees.

One of his points was a goal attempt brilliantly stopped by new Waterford keeper Shaun O'Brien in the second half.

Nearing the hour-mark, Limerick had opened an eight-point lead and looked to be about to leave Waterford trailing in the distance, but a goal from substitute Jack Fagan, a fine solo effort, roused the visitors and they kept nibbling away without ever causing Limerick any real palpitations.

David Dempsey weighed in with two first-half points and set up the goal for Hegarty in the 28th minute, after fielding a delivery from Cian Lynch, as Limerick took a 1-8 to 0-7 lead into the interval. "He was slow getting going today," said Kiely of his top scorer Hegarty, not usually as prolific.

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Patrick Curran is chased down by Limerick's Declan Hannon. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Patrick Curran is chased down by Limerick's Declan Hannon. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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Patrick Curran is chased down by Limerick's Declan Hannon. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

"I think in his first 15-20 minutes he struggled to get on the ball a bit. He worked his way into the game. I suppose that is a sign of his experience now as well. Bit of patience.

"He'd a fantastic game, there is no doubt about that, one of his scores along the sideline was just a mesmerising score. He's in great form at the moment, he is working really hard like the rest of them."

Waterford relied heavily on Pauric Mahony for scores in the first half, from placed balls, the captain scoring six points, with just one score from play before half time, coming from Jamie Barron.

Two minutes after Hegarty's goal, Waterford almost had one when Patrick Curran fizzed a low shot on the wet grass that went past the far post.

They struggled to make much headway, with Stephen Bennett restricted to one score from play, late in the match, the Limerick full-back Mike Casey having a towering game in the air at the back.

Cahill made two of his substitutions before the interval and 1-3 came from three players who started on the bench - Fagan and Peter Hogan, in particular, making their presence felt.

"The type of game Limerick play, their energy levels are massive and they have so many bodies committed to the overlap and they just seem to be able to hold that ball and suck in forwards and pop it over to a guy to set up an attack," said Cahill.

"To do that you have to have massive speed and energy and today I just felt that maybe we're a little bit heavy legged - as a team, across the board.

"We put in a big shift last Sunday (against Tipperary) as well, and you'll have evenings like that where you don't have the same zip we usually have.

"We have a quarter-final now and we have to see can we get another win, and try and progress and get another competitive game into us by getting to a semi final.

"It's a long road - but it was definitely, as I said, a test for a lot of players there tonight as to what's required. It's a step-up in class and tonight just maybe one or two players just found the step up a little bit much."

Cahill hopes to have Jake Dillon and Shane Fives back in contention for next weekend's quarter final, but said Kieran Bennett and Darragh Fives remain "a little bit off" full recovery. Shane Fives got injured in the warm-up in the previous round and was replaced indirectly by Mark O'Brien, the Ferrybank player starting midfield, with Conor Gleeson dropping back on Dempsey and finding him troublesome company.

Limerick had spells where their concentration lapsed and they made mistakes. Ominously, they have plenty room for improvement.

"Conditions weren't exactly ideal out there either," as Kiely said in mitigation.

Scorers - Limerick: G Hegarty 1-5; A Gillane 0-7 (5f); G Mulcahy 0-4; D Dempsey 0-2; D Reidy, P O'Loughlin, R Hanley 0-1 each. Waterford: P Mahony 0-7 (6f); J Fagan 1-0; S Bennett 0-3 (2f); J Barron 0-2; P Hogan, I Daly, C Lyons, B Power, D Lyons 0-1 each.

Limerick - N Quaid 7; B Nash 7, M Casey 8, A Costello 7; D Byrnes 6, D Hannon 7, D Morrissey 7; C Lynch 7, K Hayes 7; G Hegarty 9, D Reidy 7, C Boylan 7; A Gillane 8, D Dempsey 7, G Mulcahy 8. Subs: S Finn 7 for Costello (38); P O'Loughlin 7 for Byrnes (45); D O'Connell for Dempsey (58); B Ryan for Boylan (65), R Hanley for Hayes (69).

Waterford - S O'Brien 8; C Gleeson 6, C Prunty 6, S McNulty 7; C Lyons 7, I Daly 7, T Barron 6; J Barron 8, M O'Brien 6; MJ Sutton 6, P Mahony 7, N Montgomery 6; P Curran 6, Stephen Bennett 7, J Prendergast 6. Subs: J Fagan 7 for O'Brien (31); P Hogan 7 for Sutton (35), M Kearney 7 for Prendergast (52), D Lyons for Daly (inj 64).

Ref - P O'Dwyer (Carlow).

Irish Independent