I began the weekend thinking about how a year ago, the league proved a really unreliable indicator of how the winners, Waterford, would get on. But this time around, with Limerick in full cry, it looked as if we were unlikely to see that repeated.
After Sunday’s matches though the foregone conclusions don’t seem so foregone any more. Instead, I feel like I really need to see Limerick again because there were worrying signs about the performance against Waterford.
It may be that external noise – everything that you hear from the supporters and the world in general – and complacency got on top of them, particularly when they had taken a 1-8 to 0-3 lead. That would be understandable. Everything they were hearing and expecting was that they were a long way ahead of the pack and that Waterford would keep their powder dry for Cork next week.
You combine that with a strong start and there’s always a chance the foot comes off the gas, and maybe that’s what happened.
But there’s also another possibility and that is they are suffering from fatigue and “legginess”, which has nothing to do with complacency but underlying problems. If so, how do they address them?
There was also a looseness in their discipline that hadn’t been seen for a while, which cost them Gearóid Hegarty for the final quarter.
Apart from Tom Morrissey, none of their players produced big performances. Aaron Gillane’s penalty, which was poorly taken, would probably have put the match away had it been scored in the second half.
Next weekend they have to play Clare with just a six-day turnaround. I haven’t given up on Clare after this weekend. Some of the flaws we knew existed were on display again, like the poor wides, but the performance had very high energy levels and if they bring that to the Gaelic Grounds, we’ll have a better idea of where Limerick are.
Clare will test Limerick next Saturday and we’ll have a better idea of the prospects for both in the season ahead
With a better conversion rate, Waterford could have won. Their misses were ultimately the problem for them. They had the chances to win the match but didn’t take them, typified by Stephen Bennett going for goal from that 20-metre free in the second half and getting blocked.
Still, they showed plenty. Jamie Barron was lively and Calum Lyons moved to centre back and totally dominated Cian Lynch. They ended up exposing vulnerabilities in Limerick that we didn’t really think were there. Waterford are very much in the shake-up on this showing.
In the other match, Tipperary were impressive. From when they started with a snappy point from Jake Morris, and his finishing set the tone. They hunted in packs but the key element was their scoring ability. They have that score-getting prowess – and I’m not just basing it on what they put up in Ennis – that I think will take them a long way.
Clare had their moments. They too got goals. I thought Mark Rodgers looked sharp for his two while Aidan McCarthy, a huge addition from last year, was outstanding. They will test Limerick next Saturday and we’ll have a better idea of the prospects for both in the season ahead.
They have issues – Tony Kelly wasn’t good and was well managed by Tipperary – but they still have plenty that can trouble Limerick on Sunday’s showing.
Sunday was confirmation of Tipp’s good health, which we saw in the league when only Limerick were able to deal with them. Getting Bryan O’Mara back has been a godsend for the defence. He had one late intervention, a block, on Aidan McCarthy that summed up what he brings.
On Saturday, Galway will have been relieved to negotiate a tricky start to the match against Wexford. They weren’t shooting the lights out in Salthill, but they got the job done and avoided what would have been a damaging start to the campaign.
The championship is more alive on Monday morning than it was on Saturday
I anticipated Dublin having problems in Belfast and in the end they were happy to get out with a point from a match they could have lost.
Kilkenny will look at why they were unable to score goals in their match at home against Westmeath. It’s usually a signature of their performances in the championship.
The championship is more alive on Monday morning than it was on Saturday – which is great. We’ll see next week whether that is real or an illusion.