Limerick's second string fire them into League semis
Limerick 2-22 Laois 0-11
Despite starting with just six players from their All-Ireland winning team, Limerick hammered Laois last night in Portlaoise to reach their second consecutive League semi-final.
Barry Murphy top-scored for Limerick with a 0-8 tally, including seven frees. Seamus Flanagan contributed 1-2 while Gearoid Hegarty and Peter Casey both hit 0-3 in the rout, with Conor Boylan scoring the other goal in a 17-point rout.
With just one win under their belts in Division 1B, Eddie Brennan's side were always likely to struggle. This was Laois' first appearance in a quarter-final since 1996. They shocked Kilkenny back then but the hurling landscape has changed.
The ability of the weaker teams to pull off a shock win over any of the big guns has all but disappeared, but at least Laois know how much work remains to be done if they are to harbour ambitions of joining the elites.
Limerick were in experimental mood, with the placing of Dan Morrissey at full back perhaps the most interesting of their changes. He looked comfortable on the edge of the square. Essentially, this was an opportunity for the fringe players in the squad to stake a claim for more first-team action in the months ahead.
As the rain cascaded down Laois started brightly, with wing-back Lee Cleere hitting over a smashing long-range point from the left flank. But with Limerick isolating their two corner forwards Peter Casey and Barry Murphy, and withdrawing Seamus Flanagan, the Laois defence looked ill-equipped to cope.
Flanagan started and finished a great move after five minutes to hit the visitors' first goal. It was 1-5 to 0-1 after ten minutes and given Limerick's superior skillsets, Laois looked to be heading for a serious hiding.
But their work-rate was exemplary and had their finishing matched their approach work, we might have had a meaningful contest.
Limerick's scoring rate dropped in the second quarter and though Laois were almost entirely dependent on Mark Kavanagh's frees, they had reduced the deficit to six points (1-7 to 0-4) ten minutes before the break.
The All-Ireland champions put on another scoring spurt before the break, with Conor Boylan scoring their second goal after Barry Murphy created the chance. They led 2-11 to 0-6 at the break.
Their six forwards had all scored whereas only three Laois players - including goalkeeper Enda Rowland, who pointed a long range free - had done likewise for the home side.
It was more of the same in the second half; Barry Murphy's 39th-minute point meant that Limerick's six forwards had all scored from play.
Laois were noticeably more aggressive in the tackle but it was a dubious tactical move as they coughed up a succession of frees. They did, however, enjoy occasional flashes of excellence and a 51st-minute point from Aaron Dunphy was the pick of the night.
Though the game petered out to its inevitably conclusion, the one consolation for Brennan was that his charges never dropped their heads.
Scorers - Laois: M Kavanagh 0-6, 5f, E Rowland (1f), L Cleere, J Kelly, D Purcell, A Dunphy 0-1 each. Limerick: B Murphy (0-8, 7f), S Flanagan (1-2), C Boylan (1-1), G Hegarty, P Casey 0-3 each, D Byrnes (1f), D Hannon, D O'Donovan (1 sideline), R Hanley, D Dempsey,
Laois: E Rowland; J Phelan, M Whelan, D Hartnett; P Delaney, R Mullaney, L Cleere; J Kelly, S Downey; P Purcell, M Kavanagh, A Dunphy; M Dowling, N Foyle, S Bergin. Subs: PJ Scully for Bergin (46); S Maher for Dowling (53); S Dowling for Hegarty (55); D Connolly for Downey (59); A Bergin for Foyle (65).
Limerick: B Hennessy; T Condon, D Morrissey, W O'Meara; D Byrnes, D Hannon, B Nash; D O'Donovan, R Hanley; G Hegarty, D Dempsey, C Boylan; P Casey, S Flanagan, B Murphy. Subs: A Costello for Condon (ht); D Reidy for Casey (46), C Ryan for Hanley (58); A La Touche Cosgrave for Byrnes (63).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).
Sunday Indo Sport