Sport Hurling

Friday 19 January 2018

John Mullane: Brilliant Limerick display left me with egg on my face

I must admit I never saw that one coming, but the writing was on the wall for Tipperary very early on. They approached the game so slowly, in a really timid fashion. Limerick went at them from the off and that set the tone for the game. You could sense from the first 10 minutes that this wasn't going to be Tipperary's day.

In last week's column, I felt that Limerick wouldn't dominate Tipperary physically, but I was left with egg on my face. They got rightly stuck into Tipperary, who had no answers.

Limerick's defence was brilliant and the winning of the game was a three-minute period from the 56th to 58th minutes when Richie McCarthy caught a ball over Eoin Kelly and Declan Hannon and Tom Condon put in a couple of big hits.

This is a massive setback for Tipp and they'll come in for criticism similar to 2010, when they lost to Cork by 10 points. The only thing in their favour is that they've been down this road before and pushed on to win the All-Ireland. But this result really opens up the Munster and All-Ireland championships.


Cork and Clare will now fancy their chances of silverware, and to witness the scenes of joy from the Limerick supporters yesterday was really something. Apart from John O'Brien and John O'Dwyer, Tipp's forwards were non-existent as Limerick's hunger and passion shone through.

I would have questioned John Allen's team selection but he deserves great credit and the Limerick manager got his subs spot on at the right time, while the two-man full-forward line, with James Ryan acting as a third midfielder, prevented Tipp from getting into a free-flowing rhythm.

Tipp's half-back line and midfield struggled and Tipp rued those missed goal chances in the first half. Having said that, Limerick were culpable too as Declan Hannon misplaced a handpass to Seanie Tobin, when a goal would have put them six points clear. And when Hannon missed a free with eight minutes left, I thought that would be a turning point. But Limerick didn't let that affect them and after O'Dwyer's goal for Tipp, they really pushed on and finished strongly.

From the 52nd to 65th minutes, Tipperary got no score and for a top team, that's simply not good enough.

For hurling, it would be brilliant if Limerick could win a first Munster title since 1996. Clare and Cork will have something to say about that, but hurling needs the Shannonsiders.

Their victory also made a mockery of the suggestion that Division 1B teams can't compete with the big boys in 1A.

Offaly got stuck into Kilkenny from the off in Tullamore and the biggest talking point was how Ollie Baker and his back-room team approached the game. Colin Egan and Joe Bergin were the two men inside from the start and those two big men really unsettled the Kilkenny full-back line. Offaly went with the long ball and that was the reason why they scored four goals.

But I have to be very critical of Offaly in the first half, when persistent and needless fouling allowed Eoin Larkin to shoot Kilkenny back into contention from placed balls. Kilkenny's work-rate in the forward line, normally in the 'top class' bracket, was below par in the first half and this will disappoint Brian Cody. But in the second half, for a 15-minute spell, they really upped the intensity levels and kicked on.

The highlight from a Kilkenny viewpoint was Tommy Walsh's display, a throwback to his very best form. Richie Power did well in the second half and Conor Fogarty was good too when he came on. Kilkenny have plenty to work on but they will step it up as the summer goes on. Offaly got their tactics spot on as they dominated midfield in the first half but Kilkenny took over this area after half-time.

While 0-26 is good shooting from Kilkenny, they didn't threaten the Offaly goal in the second half. And as the championship hots up, they'll need Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly back fully fit to fuel the charge for a third successive All-Ireland title. These two are so vital to Kilkenny because of the power and presence they bring to the team. As we saw in the league, Kilkenny's form turned when Fennelly returned against Clare.

Yesterday, it was all about getting the win and Cody will be more interested in holding the bigger performances for some of the bigger teams they will meet along the way.

Irish Independent

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