Power surge seals 'Treaty Slam' for Kiely's kingpins
Limerick 2-26 Tipperary 2-14
It's not quite hurling's 'Grand Slam' but for now, we'll call it the 'Treaty Slam', the presence of all three major hurling honours residing in Limerick at the one time, at least for the next seven weeks.
First the All-Ireland title, then the league title and now the Munster title, all hoovered up with the same mix of physical power and game craft that embellishes their growing reputation as the game's most formidable operators by some distance.
Cork might have something to say about that, given their win against them in May, but, at their peak, exercising all of those physical advantages that they can call upon, who can really live with them at that altitude right now?
Tipperary thought they could and many concurred after an impressive round-robin campaign which concluded two weeks ago with a four-point win against yesterday's opponents.
But, crucially, Limerick had left four key players out of their starting team that day as John Kiely made good on his pre-season promise to deploy his squad more evenly than last year.
It was considered a gamble, one that could have backfired badly, but the fruits of it were realised in spectacular fashion here in the Gaelic Grounds as they pulverised Tipperary in a manner that no one could have envisaged beforehand. How could Tipp look such an old and tired team after one blistering afternoon of hurling from the home side?
Their manager Liam Sheedy referenced a lack of energy and fight afterwards, reflecting on the "green wave" that his players faced, especially in the last quarter.
But if there was a lack of energy it was down to Limerick's relentless approach sapping it out of them. Everywhere a blue and gold shirt turned they were met with that green wave hunting and harassing them.
Kyle Hayes led the charge from the front. With the wingspan of a 747, the 21-year-old was an ever-present roadblock to Tipp defenders. Rarely, if ever, did Pádraic Maher, so adept at finding space, seem so discommoded and on the back foot. But he was one of many.
Seán Finn picked up Seamus Callanan and while Tipp's record goalscorer added to his tally and kept up his goal-a-game return with a marvellous piece of individual work in the 17th minute, stepping inside Diarmaid Byrnes and racing 30 metres unchallenged for a 1-6 to 0-4 lead, Finn's reputation as the game's most uncompromising defender was enhanced otherwise.
Eventually, the cumulative effect of that pressure, the constant pummelling, told as the floodgates opened in the second half for Limerick to build on a 1-11 to 1-9 interval lead.
When John McGrath struck for Tipp's second goal on 44 minutes, it restored parity, 2-10 to 1-13. But it was flickering hope for them, even at that stage.
With wind advantage, the home side piled it on. From the 55th minute when Peter Casey flicked possession from James Barry, who had shown too much of the ball as he tried to clear his lines, into Kyle Hayes' path for Limerick's second goal, until the 73rd minute, the All-Ireland champions hit an unanswered 1-7 to push their lead out to 13 points.
Tipp were virtually hemmed in during this period, losing 18 of 26 of their own second-half puck-outs. They clawed a little back in the closing stages but the effect was merely cosmetic, preventing a deficit that could have been significantly more but for the heroics of goalkeeper Brian Hogan who had four top-class saves. When you add in Limerick's 17 wides - 10 in the second half - the room for further improvement is abundantly clear.
Limerick arguably won 12 of the 14 outfield battles. Brendan Maher deputised at corner-back for Cathal Barrett, who trained on Friday night but wasn't risked because of a hamstring injury, and edged Aaron Gillane with a heroic display in one of the key battles.
Gillane did manage to get free to create Limerick's first goal for Peter Casey with a deft pass across the goalmouth on 28 minutes.
Ronan Maher's head-to-head with Gearóid Hegarty was about even over the course of the game, but otherwise, it was a whitewash. Both Tipp midfielders, Michael Breen and Noel McGrath, were hauled ashore by the 54th minute, while John O'Dwyer and John McGrath, such skilful hurlers, couldn't survive in the furnace that Limerick stoked up.
Dan McCormack did offer resistance with some of his industry tracking back, while Hogan's imperious goalkeeping denied Cian Lynch and Gearóid Hegarty on the double after only three minutes, Hegarty on 28 minutes and Hayes again in the 42nd minute after great vision from Gillane.
Early on, Limerick's puck-out had been under pressure and that allowed Tipp some foothold. But that Callanan goal was as good as it got from them, though he had a further chance in the second half denied by Nickie Quaid.
Peter Casey was a revelation, fully justifying his selection this season ahead of Seamus Flanagan. William O'Donoghue also franked his elevation above Darragh O'Donovan to add to Limerick's collective power and ensure their graph continues to rise steadily and, for the rest, most ominously.
Scorers - Limerick: P Casey 1-5; K Hayes 1-2; T Morrissey, A Gillane (3f) 0-4 each; G Hegarty, D Byrnes (3f) 0-3 each; C Lynch, G Mulcahy 0-2 each; B Nash 0-1. Tipperary: J Forde 0-6 (3f); S Callanan 1-1; J McGrath 1-0; R Maher 0-2; J Morris, N McGrath (f), J Cahill, J O'Dwyer, D McCormack 0-1 each.
Limerick - N Quaid 7; M Casey 8, S Finn 9, R English 8; D Byrnes 8, D Hannon 8, D Morrissey 8; C Lynch 8, W O'Donoghue 7; G Hegarty 8, K Hayes 9, T Morrissey 8; A Gillane 7, P Casey 9, G Mulcahy 7. Subs: D O'Donovan for O'Donoghue (62), S Dowling for Hegarty (62), S Flanagan for P Casey inj (65), B Nash for Hannon (70), D Reidy for T Morrissey (71).
Tipperary - B Hogan 8; S O'Brien 5, J Barry 6, B Maher 8; S Kennedy 6, P Maher 6, R Maher 8; M Breen 5, N McGrath 6; J Forde 6, J O'Dwyer 5, D McCormack 7; J McGrath 6, S Callanan 7, J Morris 5. Subs: N O'Meara 5 for Breen (h-t), R Byrne 6 for N McGrath (54), J Cahill 6 for O'Dwyer (61), B Heffernan for Barry (62), M Kehoe for J McGrath (64).
Ref - P O'Dwyer (Carlow)