Limerick’s perfect tune not music to Wexford ears
Model County’s magical quest grinds to a halt at the hands of a ruthless machine
Limerick’s Tom Condon shows Paul Morris and Lee Chin of Wexford a clean pair of heels in yesterday’s quarter-final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Limerick 4-26 Wexford 1-11 There are limits to super-heroics. Not for the first time, the unexpected happened when these county colours mingled and Wexford, on an apparently magical quest for the past month, suddenly hit a wall even as they met a perfectly-tuned Limerick team at precisely the wrong time in Semple Stadium yesterday.
The result made for painful viewing, particularly for the big and optimistic support who had travelled across from the south east.
Liam Dunne’s young Wexford team had looked irresistible if not invincible during their dreamy run of wins against Clare and Waterford but here, after falling into a 0-9 to 0-3 hole against Limerick, it was as if the huge emotional and physical toll of that run suddenly dawned upon them.
TJ Ryan’s defeated Munster finalists had this quarter-final sewn up by half-time as they did to Wexford what they couldn’t do against Cork: score goals. From the beginning, they crowded out the threat posed by Liam Óg McGovern and Conor McDonald, with Wayne McNamara swooping in to blot out angled and both the Limerick wing backs, under ferocious pressure in the provincial decider, in dominant mode here.
Even the late withdrawal of Donal O’Grady at midfield couldn’t upset them: Paul Browne seemed to have a clairvoyant read on the ball for the first 15 minutes and was an immense factor in the early winning of the game while the Limerick forward line destroyed their opposite numbers.
The nightmare in the sun began to unfold in two ways for Wexford: slowly and then all at once.
Ominously clearFrom the first 10 minutes, it was ominously clear that Limerick had the wherewithal to win the battle of the skies and were in a mood to do just that, with David Breen and Declan Hannon plundering ball after ball up front and Gavin O’Mahony taking one brilliant catch on the run to unleash another Treaty attack and put further distance between him and a tough Munster final afternoon.
Limerick shot on sight: they went into a 0-9 to 0-3 lead in a half when they must have been disappointed not to convert half of the 10 wides they struck.
It is hard to pinpoint precisely when all sense drifted out of Semple Stadium. Certainly, it was almost impossible to see a way back when David Breen, came thundering like a locomotive onto Shane Dowling’s delightful flick and struck low for Limerick’s first goal.
That score actually preceded Wexford’s best passage, when they managed to produce three points on the trot, the best of those a crisp cross-field pass from Andrew Shore for Conor McDonald to clip over unchallenged.
But those open spaces were rare and Limerick’s response was devastating: Breen rose to claim the puck-out over Ciarán Kenny, ran towards the endline and squared a pass for Dowling to bat home from close range.
The big Wexford support was still processing the awfulness of what was unfolding when Limerick were in again: Thomas Ryan ran through a stretched Wexford centre and got the tip of his hurl to the ball as he fell. Dowling made no mistake. It was 3-15 to 0-8 and suddenly Wexford’s irresistible run seemed a distant memory.
Plain unfairAfterwards TJ Ryan was adamant that asking Wexford to play an All-Ireland quarter-final after three big weekends was plain unfair. Ryan can’t but have been pleased by the attitude and decisiveness and the bright and varied patterns his players ran.
But deep down the nagging thought that Limerick were playing a team running on empty may have nagged a little. Perhaps a less facile route to the All-Ireland semi-final would have been more useful for Limerick.
The second half seemed to take forever to play. Limerick clearly had no interest in amassing any sort of historic score line and Wexford simply hadn’t the energy to summon any kind of sustained fury.
Dowling had 2-6 to his name by half-time and added just 0-2 over the second half as Limerick were content to see the match out. As it happened, they couldn’t but score another goal, the excellent Browne exploiting a path as it opened up for him and firing from close range. It was a dispiriting end to Wexford’s adventure.
They had one brief glimmer of a chance after 15 minutes. Lee Chin, who tried every key possible to get the machine up and running, played Paul Morris through and he found Podge Doran who was in an ocean of space. Green shirts rallied from all angles but Doran had the goal in his sightlines: his low shot whistled left and narrowly wide.
Limerick swept up field and Graeme Mulcahy, who in contrast to his team-mates tormented the Wexford defence with his running and elusiveness, firing a point.
A goal from Shane Tompkins after 62 minutes raised a huge cheer, giving a tantalising flavour of what the afternoon might have been like had Wexford managed to maintain the form that has thrilled the county for the past month.
Instead, their championship ended with a red card for Matthew O’Hanlon, the team captain, who was whistled for chopping down on Dowling. There was no malice in it, just frustration and tiredness.
Wexford were all out of steam. Limerick roll onto Croke Park, hoping to take up where Wexford left off. LIMERICK:1 N Quaid; 2 T Condon, 3 R McCarthy, 4 S Hickey; 5 P O’Brien, W McNamara (0-1), G O’Mahony; 8 J Ryan (0-2), 9 B Browne (1-1); 10 D Hannon (0-4, 1 sideline), 22 T Ryan (0-3), 15 D Breen (1-1); 13 G Mulcahy (0-3), 12 S Dowling (2-8, 4 frees), 14 K Downes. Subs: 19 S Tobin (0-3 ,1 free) for D Breen (50 mins), N Moran for K Downs (50 mins), T O’Brien for D Hannon (55 mins inj.), 17 S Walsh for R McCarthy (59 mins inj), 18 C King for 8 J Ryan (65 mins). WEXFORD: 1 M Fannin; 2 L Ran, 3 M O’Hanlon, 4 K Rossiter: 5 A Shore, 6 E Moore, 7 C Kenny; 8 D Redmond, 9 L Chin; 10 P Morris (0-2), 11 P Doran (0-2), 12 D O’Keeffe (0-2); 13 J Guiney (0-3 , 1 free, 1 65), 14 C McDonald (0-2), 15 L Og McGovern. Subs: 26 S Tomkins (1-0) for D Redmond (half-time), 18 R Kehoe for C Kenny (half-time), 19 R Jacob for P Morris (43 mins), I Byrne for P Doran (43 mins), 23 H Kehoe for D O’Keeffe (43 mins). Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).