Ryan points the way as Dublin finally deliver
Dublin 1-17 Limerick 1-16
Proportionately, this was as big a win for Dublin as it was a calamity for Limerick and the level of joy and relief the outcome will be greeted with in the capital will be matched only by the depth of gloom down by the Shannon.
But this was always going to be a sort of crossroads fixture given the heavy defeats both of these sides had shipped already this summer.
What was not envisaged was that Limerick would blow such a winning hand at Semple Stadium on Saturday or that Dublin would have the hardness to come from eight points down and win it. You might have fancied Limerick to do it that way, with a Dublin cave-in, but not the other way round.
It is hard to know if Dublin will go much further, but given the journey they are on, this was progress and they will hurl with less of the shackles on next time out.
But what of Limerick? They were coasting, 1-7 to 0-2 up after just 26 minutes, the breeze at their backs and the wind in their sails. It didn't seem to matter that they were shooting more wides than scores - they were on top everywhere.
But those misses did count in the end. For a start, they did not kill off Dublin like Galway did in the Leinster Championship and when Ger Cunningham's side finally got moving to hit four points before the break, the contest was back on.
Limerick were just not ready for it. "We had a four-point lead, you are trying to come out and start well in the second half and get a point or two, but they started way better," said Limerick boss TJ Ryan.
"They got the scores and they just seemed to be moving that bit better at the start of the second half and Dublin finished that bit stronger."
Cunningham agreed the few scores before half-time were key. "We were still there in the game. I thought the lads showed unbelievable character in the second half. The couple of scores before half-time were crucial in getting us back," said Cunningham, who refused to discuss Michael Carton's midweek defection.
Limerick looked to have all the aces in attack. Ryan started Cian Lynch at wing-forward and all six forwards were troubling their men. The scores came in a trickle and in the end it is a defeat which will haunt Limerick into the winter.
But for all their movement they didn't have a match-winner. Graeme Mulcahy was the only one to score twice from play.
Aside from the goal, they only hit six points from play over the 70 minutes. In that time they had 14 wides, 11 of them before half-time.
Dublin's Paul Ryan scored as many points from play as all of Limerick put together. And the St Jude's man also stuck over half a dozen frees. Limerick didn't score for the closing eight minutes, plus stoppage-time, of the first half and another eight minutes passed before Shan Dowling got their first point of the second period. In that time, Dublin registered 0-9, Ryan hitting eight of them, three of those fine efforts from play.
That meant the eight points advantage which Limerick built when David Breen showed a clean pair of heels to Liam Rushe for a fine goal, was wiped out and Dublin hit the front for the first time after 42 minutes. Perhaps the warning signs were there for Limerick the previous week when they struggled to put Westmeath away in Mullingar, although they regrouped and Seanie Tobin helped them shoot four in a row when he came on.
That put Limerick ahead by a goal and once again they looked a good bet to go on and wrap it up. But they kept giving away frees and Ryan kept punishing them.
Then disaster struck when Richard McCarthy and Seamus Hickey failed to deal with a delivery from Shane Durkin, and Dotsy O'Callaghan pounced for a goal which put the Dubs a point up eight minutes from time.
Tobin levelled but Limerick never led again and Cian Boland and Ryan got two between them before Tobin trimmed it to one heading into stoppage-time. But even the loss of Chris Crummey to a second yellow did not halt Dublin.
Scorers - Dublin: P Ryan 0-12 (0-6f), D O'Callaghan 1-0, D Plunkett 0-2, M Schutte 0-1, R O'Dwyer 0-1, C Boland 0-1. Limerick: S Tobin 0-6 (0-4f), S Dowling 0-4 (0-2f, 0-2 '65), D Breen 1-0, G Mulcahy 0-2, D Hannon 0-2 (0-1 sl), P O'Brien 0-1, K Downes 0-1.
Dublin - G Maguire 7: P Schutte 5, C Crummey 7, S Barrett 6; S Durkin 6, L Rushe 6, N Corcoran 5; D Plunkett 6, J McCaffrey 6; E Dillon 5, R O'Dwyer 6, D Sutcliffe 6; M Schutte 7, C Keaney 6, P Ryan 9. Subs: D O'Callaghan 8 for Dillon (29 mins), J Boland 7 for Corcoran (50), C Boland 6 for Keaney (58), D Treacy 6 for M Schutte (65).
Limerick - N Quaid 7; S Hickey 6, R McCarthy 7, S O'Brien 6; P O'Brien 6, G O'Mahony 6, W McNamara 5; J Ryan 6, P Browne 6; G Mulcahy 7, D Breen 7, C Lynch 6; S Dowling 6, K Downes 6, D Hannon 6. Subs: S Tobin 7 for Dowling (43 mins), D Morrissey 6 for McNamara (43), D O'Grady 6 for Breen (55), D O'Grady 6 for Hannon (65), C King 6 for Browne (69).
Ref - C McAllister (Cork).
MAN OF THE MATCH
Paul Ryan (Dublin)
Superb display of shooting from the Dublin forward, hitting 0-12 in a top-class performance. Half of his tally came from play – Limerick only managed six points from play.
How did Limerick let an eight-point lead slip? All the fears about them being brittle were realised and it could take them a while to recover from this debacle.
Dotsy O’Callaghan took a gamble that Richard McCarthy and Seamus Hickey might not deal with Shane Durkin’s long delivery and he made the most of the chance to find the net and send Dublin on their way.
Limerick were unhappy with some of Cathal McAllister’s decisions but the Cork man let it run as much as possible. There were only six frees in the entire opening half.
Dublin 9 (5 first half)
Limerick 14 (11)
Dublin 8 (4 first half)
Limerick 11 (2)
Dublin 4 (C Boland 25, D Sutcliffe 25,
C Crummey 70,70)
Dublin are into the quarter-finals on the weekend after next. Limerick, though, must get ready for long and painful post mortem. It could take them a while to bounce back.