Waterford hit new heights in second-half blitz of Limerick
National Hurling League Division One semi-final:
Waterford 3-23 Limerick 1-18
DEFENDING champions Waterford blitzed Limerick in the second-half of Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League Division One semi-final to set up a showpiece clash with Clare on May 1.
It’s hardly ideal preparation for both league finalists ahead of their Munster semi-final on June 5, but Waterford hit new heights on Sunday to blow Limerick away, particularly in the second-half.
Trailing by 0-11 to 0-12 at half-time, Waterford won the second-half by 3-12 to 1-6, inflicting a damaging defeat on a Limerick team who won’t play a competitive game again until a Munster semi-final with Cork or Tipperary on June 19.
In the absence of attacking talisman and Allstar Maurice Shanahan, young guns Patrick Curran and Shane Bennett were immense for the Déise. Curran hit 1-10 before he was sent-off late on for a second bookable offence, an unfortunate end to a productive afternoon. And Bennett’s blistering 43rd minute penalty, which he won himself, was part of a scoring streak that saw Waterford hit 1-5 without reply to turn the game on its head.
Further encouragement for Waterford was their match tally of 3-23, with three second-half goals ensuring they doubled their green flag total for the entire campaign. In stoppage time, sub Tom Devine scored Waterford’s third, seconds after Limerick replacement Shane Dowling lashed home a 20-metre free.
As a statement of summer intent, this was impressive from Waterford and manager Derek McGrath admitted: “There was [talk of goals] and it's hard to keep that outside.
“There was a stat mentioned that Clare and Limerick were well ahead of us on goals, but our stats when we were in 1B [last year] were very handsome in terms of goals.
“It's good to get a couple of goals, no doubt about it, we're an absolute work in progress and nowhere near where we need to be in terms of goals and otherwise. It's no coincidence that the penalty freed us up, I was thinking the accusation after would be that we could only get goals from penalties!”
Both sides adopted a defensive set-up in the first-half and it was noticeable that Waterford’s forwards were often outnumbered four-to-seven as Limerick operated with two sweepers. But space eventually began to open up in the second-half and Waterford exploited it to score a handsome win.
McGrath added: “Psychologically for the lads, it's good to get a couple of goals. We got 3-21 last year against Cork in the Championship, 3-23 today, there's a little more accuracy needed because it can be a noose around your neck, not getting goals. We were happy to get them today. We worked hard for them.”
And McGrath believes Waterford’s style of play, which Limerick in many ways tried to match, is at a more advanced stage than their opponents: “The reality is we're probably playing that game a bit longer than Limerick," he said.
“Our guys are used to playing that way and, psychologically, they're getting stronger in terms of when it breaks down, or listening to the crowd - that they believe in it.”
On this evidence, Waterford are moving very much in the right direction, but defeat is a setback for Limerick and may see the ‘vultures’ referenced by manager TJ Ryan after the quarter-final victory over Dublin circling overhead again.
Limerick now face a big wait until the Championship and Ryan conceded: “Today is a disappointing day, we have to take that on the chin, I have to take it on the chin. It wasn’t good enough and we have to get back to the training ground and work our socks off for the next few weeks.
"It’s going to be difficult, but I believe we have the guys to do it. I believe we have the squad to do it and there’s no other way about it. We just have to go back to the training ground and work hard.”
Limerick: N Quaid; S O’Brien, R McCarthy, R English; P O’Brien, D Byrnes (0-2), R Lynch (0-7f); G O’Mahony, P Browne (0-1); G Hegarty, J Ryan (0-1), C Lynch; B Nash (0-2), K Downes, T Morrissey (0-3); Subs: J Fitzgibbon for Hegarty (48), T Condon (0-1) for S O’Brien (50), D Hannon for Downes (57), S Dowling (1-01f) for P O’Brien (61), G Mulcahy for Lynch (65).
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; D Fives (0-1), T de Búrca (0-1), Philip Mahony; A Gleeson (0-03, 1f), J Barron; M Walsh, K Moran (0-1), C Dunford (0-2); J Dillon, S Bennett (1-3, 1-0 pen), P Curran (1-10, 0-7f, 0-2 65s); Subs: B O’Halloran (0-1) for Dunford (48), S McNulty for S Fives (55), T Devine (1-1) for Dillon (59), Pauric Mahony for Walsh (64), S O’Sullivan (Ballygunner) for Moran (67).
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).