Thursday 5 December 2019

Treaty forwards have natural fluency that can ask real questions of Kilkenny

Limerick's Thomas Ryan in action against Wexford pair Lee Chin (left) and Richie Kehoe during the quarter-final clash in Thurles. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Limerick's Thomas Ryan in action against Wexford pair Lee Chin (left) and Richie Kehoe during the quarter-final clash in Thurles. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Cyril Farrell

We came expecting fireworks and found only a damp squib. Maybe we were spoiled by last summer's outrageous highs, but Thurles yesterday never delivered the levels of drama the hurling championship is almost contractually obliged to supply at this stage.

Instead, the Wexford revolution that has gathered pace over the past month was over inside 30 minutes, while Dublin's old failings in front of goal came back to haunt them.

It was all a bit pedestrian.

It's hard to know where it went wrong for Wexford.

Perhaps, it was the schedule or maybe the occasion and the excitement that has been building in the county got to them a little bit.

Limerick set the pace from early on and pressurised Wexford into mistakes.

Soon, forced errors were being followed by unforced errors. Their short passing game broke down and their energy deserted them.

To continue their adventure, Wexford needed to get in front and let adrenalin carry them over the line.

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That never happened and, soon, they were floundering in the wake of Limerick's classy forwards.

With David Breen, Declan Hannon and the likes hoovering up any high ball that came their way, Limerick had a strong platform to attack.

TJ Ryan has a solid team with a strong back division and a good midfield pairing, but it was their forwards who impressed me most yesterday.

They have a natural fluency to them and, while you can say the two goals before half-time really ended the game as a contest, it already looked to be going away from Wexford at that stage, with Limerick quicker to the breaks and more potent in attack.

It was one of those days for Liam Dunne's side. Nothing went right for them and, at the break, they could only play for pride and try and win the second half.

That didn't work out for them either, but it has been a great year that saw them make some major strides.

If they can build on that progress in 2015, they'll be back near the top of the tree.

The county can also concentrate on its U-21 campaign and next month's All-Ireland semi-final with Galway, so there is plenty to play for there and some nice hurlers to develop.

Limerick march on to an All-Ireland semi-final with Kilkenny. You could argue that perhaps they would have liked a tougher assignment yesterday to prepare for that game, but they delivered a professional performance and did everything that was asked of them.

They're back in Croke Park for a second successive year and that is huge for them and a watermark of their progress.

They'll go into that semi-final as underdogs, which will suit them just fine, and I think they are well positioned to produce a big performance in that game.

The second match also went along scripted lines.

Dublin struggled where they have done for a long time now – in front of goal. Where Tipperary had the wrists to take scores from out the field, Dublin seemed to be much more rigid. They tried hard as they always do but, quite simply, they were up against better hurlers.

Tipp had two goal chances and took both of them. Dublin didn't have the natural forwards to create the same opportunities.

Nothing happened off the cuff for them and that has been their problem for a while.

Anthony Daly hinted afterwards that he might step down as Dublin boss and I think he'll take a few weeks to mull things over as he has done in the past. I have no doubt that if he wants to stay he'll be kept, but he owes nobody anything.

He has busted his gut for Dublin and those players have done the same for him and he might decide it's time to go. What is clear is that this group of players have done all they can and the squad needs to be freshened up with new talent.

It's the likes of Cormac Costello and Ciarán Kilkenny – two of the brightest stars they have produced – who could propel them to the next level, but prising such youngsters away from the football squad remains their biggest problem. It's something Dublin will look to address as they aim to continue their progress.

Tipperary set up an all-Munster All-Ireland semi-final clash in Croke Park.

There's no doubt that they'll have to improve from yesterday's showing to take on the Rebels, but they have a little bit of momentum now since recovering from the Munster championship defeat to Limerick on their own patch.

They could have Michael Cahill and Conor O'Mahony back and that would be another boost and Tipp won't want for belief that they can beat Cork.

With a head of steam up, they are a dangerous animal at this stage of the summer.

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