Assumptions are upended on a weekend of revivals and arrivals

Opening salvos in Munster show the championship’s established narratives may prove unreliable

For a championship so well worked out in advance, like a not terribly difficult mathematical equation, hurling’s opening night made dunces of most onlookers. Bookmakers’ marketing departments had all but advised a payout on Limerick before the champions fired the first shots of this year’s Munster campaign.

Waterford obviously weren’t convinced by the narrative and pushed the favourites all the way to their narrow two-point win in FBD Semple Stadium.

Later, over in Ennis, Tipperary – nul points in last year’s provincial round-robin – turned on the goals to defeat the team that brought Limerick to the brink 12 months ago, Clare.

In Thurles, Waterford had to recover from a nervy start that saw them eight behind after 20 minutes but having mounted an impressive recovery – and having seen Limerick’s former Hurler of the Year, Gearóid Hegarty, red-carded – they let the champions rally and build an escape route, which they were unable to shut down in the seven minutes of injury-time.


“Mixed emotions really,” was the response of the champions’ manager John Kiely. “I suppose we’re relieved to get the result and the two points on the board. That’s what today was all about. The first day in the championship is a really pressurised day because if you lose the first game it puts you on the back foot.

“So, delighted with the result. Performance-wise, mixed. There were times when we were in control, but there were other times when we weren’t. Energy-wise, I would like to have seen a bit more from the guys at times.”

His counterpart, David Fitzgerald, rejected the idea that his team had gallantly run Limerick close – instead feeling this was one that had got away.

“Someone said to me earlier, ‘we could have caught them’. We all know Limerick are a great team and I’d be the first to say that. They are top class but it wasn’t catching; we had the opportunities to win that game, 110 per cent.”

Neither had much to add to the red card, for a second yellow after Hegarty had ploughed into Conor Gleeson in what led to a fracas and a plethora of cards, including a red for one of the Waterford back room team who had pushed the Limerick player.

There were more cards than in Las Vegas: 10 yellows for the players, a couple more for the entourages in a match that, if ill-disciplined, never descended into the vicious. It was scrappy, however. According to Kiely the ball was only in play for 14 minutes in the first half.

Hegarty won’t face suspension as he was sent off for two yellows but Séamus Flanagan, whose first-half goal proved decisive, may have a case to answer for a head-high challenge on Stephen Bennett.

Both centre backs had to be replaced early in the match – Limerick’s captain Declan Hannon with an unspecified injury and Waterford’s defensive anchor Tadhg de Búrca, who is accursed by injury – this time his Achilles tendon, which is set to rule him out for the rest of the season.

There were goals galore in Cusack Park where Tipperary opened their account with a 5-22 to 3-23 win over Clare. Jason Forde, from placed balls, and Jake Morris had two apiece, as did Mark Rodgers for Clare.

It was a first defeat at home for Clare since Tipp last visited Ennis four years ago. Next week Waterford head to Cork whereas Limerick and Clare will have the opportunity to find better form and revisit last year’s epic Munster final when they face each other in the Gaelic Grounds.

Football had a busy weekend. Most noteworthy was Connacht champions Galway defeat of Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park where a Damien Comer goal proved decisive in a 1-13 to 1-9 win.

Offaly’s win over Meath in Tullamore confirmed Colm O’Rourke’s side as part of the Tailteann Cup field rather than Sam Maguire competitors. Dublin were big winners in Portlaoise, hammering the home side 4-30 to 2-9, the second match running in which they have scored four goals. There were starts for both prodigals, Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion.

Mickey Harte’s Louth continued their good form, coming back to beat Tailteann Cup holders Westmeath. In Ulster another less happy trajectory was maintained by Donegal, who were beaten by Down for the first time in over a decade.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times