Humiliation for Déise as Limerick get guns blazing
Munster SHC Round Robin: Limerick 2-24 Waterford 0-10
The story from Walsh Park wasn't how Limerick rebooted their Championship programme, but rather how Waterford's systems have become corrupted to the point where they're not functioning at even low-level capacity.
It was always likely that the All-Ireland champions would improve significantly on the disappointing performance against Cork, but who would have predicted yet another abject surrender by Waterford?
Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.
If Limerick's seven-point defeat by Cork was enough to spark a powerful response, the 18-point trimming by Tipperary should have left Waterford's motivation tanks overflowing.
Instead they looked very much like a side whose self-belief was so low that the smallest of problems would torpedo them. Even after taking an early three-point lead with the strong wind, it was as if they were waiting in dread for a Limerick surge.
Sensing the mood, John Kiely's men raised the tempo and once Aaron Gillane fired home their first goal in the 17th minute a sense of inevitability set in. Ahead by 1-10 to 0-7 at half-time, Limerick totally demolished Waterford's insipid challenge three minutes into the second-half when Gearóid Hegarty galloped in from the wing and drove the ball to the net.
Yet again the Waterford defence had gone missing, a pattern which grew even more pronounced for the remainder of the game. They scored only three points in the second-half, compared to 1-14 for Limerick, whose wides tally for the day reached 19. It underlines just how many chances they created.
Waterford finished with 14 men, having had Pauric Mahony sent off in the 49th minute for a wild pull. It was the third time in their last four games that they had a player dismissed, which raises questions about their discipline.
But then, it seems to be part of a wider frustration for a squad that has now gone eight Championship games without a win.
If they thought things couldn't get worse after the Tipperary game, they discovered yesterday that the bottom becomes as low as a team allows.
This was a seriously embarrassing day for Waterford, leaving supporters in the 10,874-strong crowd wondering what has gone so badly wrong.
Austin Gleeson is a case in point. The former Hurler of the Year, a man who should be a major driving force for the team, was taken off at half-time having made little impression around midfield.
"We had a certain gameplan and I just didn't think he was getting on the ball in the first-half. Possessions in the first-half... their midfielders had 24 and we had eight," explained Déise boss Páraic Fanning.
"Look, that was it. They're the calls you make. Are they the calls you want to make? No. We were changing tactics a little bit too at that stage."
The question is, has Gleeson, one of the most naturally gifted talents in the game, had his edge dulled by being played all over the place for several seasons?
Certainly something isn't right when his value to the operation is deemed low enough to remove him at half-time in a make-or-break Championship game.
Other than solid performances from defenders Calum Lyons and Conor Prunty, there was little positive for Waterford to take out of a game where their All-Ireland ambitions ended.
They play Cork next Saturday in a tie which is of relevance to the Rebels only, but Fanning promised they would regroup and give it their best shot.
"It's very raw at the moment," he admitted.
Asked if he was happy with the effort during the second-half, he walked a diplomatic line. In truth, he couldn't be as there were times when it looked as if some players were merely waiting for the final whistle.
"I think we got a little bit deflated in the second-half. Too quickly maybe at times and whether that's mental is probably something we have to look at. It definitely got in on the lads at that stage," said Fanning.
They could expect no mercy from Limerick, where the battle for places demands that everyone who gets a chance is oozing determination.
And with scoring difference possibly playing a part in deciding placings at the end of the 'round robin', they wanted to accumulate as much as possible.
"I knew we were going to get a reaction (after the Cork defeat). The disappointment of that game was really difficult. We just didn't perform, that's the bottom line. We had to respond today because if we didn't, it would have been curtains for us," said Treaty manager John Kiely.
He need not have worried. Limerick were excellent in every facet, albeit they were aided by Waterford's inexplicable failure to even get the basics right.
Limerick are good at creating space, but they would still have been surprised by how easy it was to lose markers across every line, and most especially in the middle third.
For Waterford, the challenge after conceding a total of 4-54 in their last two games is to rescue their self-respect against Cork. It won't be easy after the latest shocking cave-in.
Scorers - Limerick: A Gillane 1-4 (4f), S Dowling 0-5 (4f), G Hegarty 1-1, K Hayes 0-3, P Casey, P O'Loughlin, D O'Donovan 0-2 each, D Hannon, T Morrissey, D Reidy, B Murphy, C Lynch 0-1 each Waterford: P Mahony 0-7 (5f), Shane Bennett, Stephen Bennett, J Prendergast 0-1.
Limerick - N Quaid 7; S Finn 7, M Casey 8, R English 7; D Morrissey 7, D Hannon 7, P O'Loughlin 7; C Lynch 8, W O'Donoghue 7; G Hegarty 9, K Hayes 8, T Morrissey 7; A Gillane 7, G Mulcahy 7, P Casey 7. Subs: D O'Donovan 7 for O'Donoghue (49), B Murphy 7 for Gillane (52), S Dowling 8 for T Morrissey (54), D Reidy 6 for Hegarty (61), P Ryan for Mulcahy (68).
Waterford - S O'Keeffe 6; C Lyons 7, C Prunty 7, N Connors 5; D Fives 5, T de Burca 6, K Moran 5; J Barron 5, A Gleeson 5; P Mahony 5, Stephen Bennett 5, J Prendergast 6; M Kearney 6, M Shanahan 5, T Ryan 6. Subs: M Walsh 5 for Shanahan (ht); Shane Bennett 5 for Gleeson (ht), C Gleeson 6 for Fives (51), B O'Halloran 6 for Ryan (63), S McNulty for Connors (69).
Ref - F Horgan (Tipperary)