Relentless Limerick kill off Waterford’s challenge to book Munster final spot

All-Ireland champions dictated the end game, as they have done so often over the years

Munster SHC Rd 5: Limerick 0-30 Waterford 2-14

In the end Limerick reduced the roundabout of permutations to a simple outcome. In the closing 15 minutes they outscored Waterford by 0-9 to 0-1, and a match that had sparked as a contest for the guts of an hour was choked by Limerick’s capacity to keep going, on all terrains, like a Hellcat tank.

The All-Ireland champions have still not hit their straps, and their shooting in the first half was careless and potentially destructive. But they chased some ghosts from the machine as the match wore on and dictated the end game, as they have done so often.

In a fortnight they will meet Clare in the Munster final for the third year in a row, seeking to become the first team in the history of the Munster championship to win six titles in succession. From now on every step they take on the mountain is making a new track.

In Cork a fortnight ago they shipped 3-28, more than they ever had on John Kiely’s watch, and were unusually distressed by long puck-outs and direct deliveries into the scoring zone. Waterford rubbed that lamp too, beseeching the genie to appear. It was unlikely to work twice.


“With the elements [wind] the way it was going straight down the middle of the pitch there was always going to be a half of the game where we were going to be under the cosh from that type of ball coming into our defence,” said Kiely. “We always would have prided ourselves on that scenario and didn’t deal with it well in the Cork game, but really, really delighted with the way we managed it today.

“Gave away very few chances. Okay, they’ll be disappointed with the couple of goals but in the overall scheme of things we were very mean as a defence today.”

The final margin makes no reference to the tension that briefly gripped the game in the middle of the second half when Waterford reduced the deficit to a couple of points, and kept themselves within striking distance long enough for the All-Ireland champions to feel threatened.

Waterford were playing with the wind and with some momentum when Shane Bennett scrambled home his second goal, 11 minutes after the break. They backed it up with two unanswered points and were still in the hunt at the end of the third quarter. But to really spook Limerick and the enormous home crowd they needed to somehow take the lead and they couldn’t manage it.

In another sense, it should never have come to that. Limerick played with the wind in the first half and effectively squandered it. One of their key principles is to shoot heavily, and to hit at least 40 shots in every match. But that must be balanced with efficiency and that component was missing.

Limerick have such a facility to shoot from distance and from obtuse angles that cribbing about their shot selection became a defunct criticism a long time ago, but it was revived here. Time and again potshots failed from distance.

Diarmuid Byrnes, whose radar has been faulty all season, missed four shots from five attempts in the first half, and before he went off with a hamstring strain Séamus Flanagan had committed three wides from three shots. By half-time Limerick had racked up 14 points and precisely the same amount of wides.

In contrast the only thing keeping Waterford in the game was the economy of their shooting against the wind. By the time they hit their second wide after 27 minutes Limerick had already racked up a dozen.

Stephen Bennett led the attack from centre forward, distancing himself from Declan Hannon, a manoeuvre that allowed both of them into the game. He picked off a nice point and his free-taking was good.

The only free that he mis-hit, though, led to Waterford’s first goal after 16 minutes. As the ball travelled at head height towards the Limerick goal Nickie Quaid was settled on the line, his knees flexed and his hand poised in the catching position. But at the last second Shane Barrett got a hurley to the ball and deflected it into the net, Quaid frozen in pose, like a waxwork.

That put Waterford 1-4 to 0-4 in front, a lead they held for just five minutes. At the other end Limerick threatened a couple of goals only to be denied by last-ditch defending. Tadhg de Búrca made a desperate tackle on Gearóid Hegarty, the referee deeming that he had made contact with the ball; any other outcome would have resulted in a penalty. Limerick had another shout for a black-card penalty waved away and by the end of the game they still hadn’t found the net.

On their good days, though, goals never bother them. It didn’t matter here.

LIMERICK: N Quaid; M Casey, D Morrissey, B Nash (0-1); D Byrnes (0-2, 0-1f), D Hannon, K Hayes (0-3); W O’Donoghue (0-1), C O’Neill (0-2); G Hegarty (0-2), C Lynch (0-1), T Morrissey (0-4); A Gillane (0-7, 0-7f), S Flanagan, D Reidy (0-2).

Subs: S O’Brien (0-3) for Flanagan (inj, 20 mins; A English (0-1) for T Morrissey; F O’Connor for Casey (61); C Boylan (0-1) for Reidy (62); D Ó Dalaigh for Gillane (70).

WATERFORD: S O’Brien; I Kenny, S Prunty, I Daly; M Fitzgerald, T de Burca, C Lyons (0-2); P Leavey (0-1), N Montgomery; J Barron (0-1), D Hutchinson (0-2, 0-1f), J Prendergast (0-1); K Mahony (0-1), Stephen Bennett (0-5, 0-4f), Shane Bennett (2-0).

Subs: M Kiely for Montgomery (h-t); Patrick Fitzgerald (0-1) for Barron (46 mins); Pádraig Fitzgerald for Stephen Bennett (56); K Bennett for Shane Bennett (65); J Fagan for Prendergast (68).

Referee: Michael Kennedy (Tipperary).

Denis Walsh

Denis Walsh

Denis Walsh is a sports writer with The Irish Times