Dublin return to hurling’s top table at Limerick’s expense

Strong second half sets up semi-final clash with Tipperary

Hurling League Division One B Final

Dublin 1-16 Limerick 1-15

So, after three regular league seasons, Limerick's record stands at 14 wins, two draws and one loss.

And yet, for the fourth year in a row, there will be no place at the top table for the Munster side - Dublin will dine amongst the giants of the game next Spring, and have also earned themselves a tilt at Tipperary in the Division One semi-final on Sunday, April 21st.


"We've a fortnight now to the semi-final with Tipp, so we'll look forward to that," said Dublin manager Anthony Daly afterwards. "We'd want to be a good bit better off the blocks. We've kind of come under the radar, no one has given us much of a shout all year, so that suits us grand."

It was Limerick that took the game by the scruff of the neck from the outset.

In between a point from Kevin Downes within moments of the throw-in and a seventh-minute pointed free by Declan Hannon, Limerick had two goal chances - Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan superbly pushing a shot from Graeme Mulcahy over the bar before making an easier save from a Conor Alis effort.

Dublin slowly gained a foothold in the game, thanks in part to Limerick's Seamus Hickey - who was named at centre forward - operating as a third midfielder, which allowed Liam Rushe to sweep up across the Dublin half-back line.

A Paul Ryan pointed free opened Dublin's account after eight minutes, and this was followed by scores from John McCaffrey (a sideline cut), Conor McCormack and Simon Lambert, before a foul on David O'Callaghan tempted Ryan to go for goal from a free just outside the 21.

From three points ahead to four points down (0-3 to 1-4) Limerick continued to look for a green flag. After a point from team captain Paudie O'Brien, both Downes and Hannon had goal-bound shots saved, before a harsh free awarded against Shane Durkin for overcarrying gave Hannon the opportunity to hit the net from 21 yards to square the game, 1-5 apiece.

By half-time, Limerick had taken back the lead, 1-7 to 1-6, but the missed goal chances and eight first-half wides was, ultimately, to cost them dearly.

"Our forwards were very rash in their shooting," mourned Limerick boss John Allen. "The forwards shot on sight, not realising there was a little bit of time, a little bit of space. We certainly didn't convert enough of the chances we created. As Dublin were in the first game, they created chances but didn't take them. We didn't take them today and it came against us in the end."

In tha tie at Croke Park in March, which Limerick won by six points, Dublin struck 15 wides.

"I suppose we did most of the hurling the day we played them in the regular round, and we didn't put it on the board and I suppose they paid for it today," said Daly after the Semple Stadium floodlights were switched off. "We were lucky to be only a point down at half time. Some other teams might have you out of sight at that stage. Everyone looked nice and relaxed and ready to good. We stood and watched limerick lads going to the ball. We didn't hurl at all for 35 minutes but turned in a huge second half."

Dublin started the second half in the mood that Limerick had began the first.

However, after claiming four of the first five scores - with O'Callaghan in particular causing a major headache for the Limerick defence - John Allen's side regrouped and five scores in a row gave them a three-point lead with 20 minutes remaining.

Hannon's accuracy kept the scoreboard ticking over for Limerick, but a point from Dublin substitute Niall McMorrow and two placed-balls from Paul Ryan got Dublin back to within striking distance, before a great pass by O'Callaghan handed David Treacy the opportunity to level the tie, 1-14 each, after 62 minutes of play.

Another pointed free by Ryan was quickly cancelled by Hickey for Limerick, before Joey Boland's long-range effort from under the New Stand with two minutes of normal time remaining handed victory to Dublin.

Daly introduced substitutes Ryan O'Dwyer, Niall McMorrow, David Treacy, Eamon Dillon and Niall Corcoran during the final and afterwards pointed to their impact.

"Since I took over it's probably the strongest bench we've had, and we said we'd use them. We used the five subs and every single one of them won balls. Very hard for anyone to keep going for over 70 minutes in that intensity, so maybe that did the trick.

"Delighted to get the win and just get out of this division. We were very disappointed to get relegated. We felt we outhurled them in Croke Park and lost. And John Allen can feel that way after this. Hurling is a crazy sport like that."

Relief for Dublin - bitter disappointment for Limerick.

"Very disappointed," admitted Allen. "I suppose we could have got a free at the end to draw it. I'm suppose to say nothing about referees so I won't, and maybe that's enough. It was very hard fought, but that's the way it is. You lose by a point, you might as well lose by 10. No doubt about it, playing in Division One A is where you want to be."

DUBLIN: A Nolan; P Kelly, P Schutte, R Trainor; M Carton, L Rushe, S Durkin; J Boland (0-1), S Lambert (0-1); C Keaney, J McCaffrey (0-1), D Sutcliffe (0-1); C McCormack (0-1), D O'Callaghan (0-1), P Ryan (1-8, all frees). Subs: R O'Dwyer for J McCaffrey (half-time); N McMorrow (0-1) for C Keaney (47 mins); D Treacy (0-1) for M Carton (49); E Dillon for C McCormack for (64); N Corcoran for P Schutte (67).

LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; P O'Brien (0-1), W McNamara, G O'Mahony; P Browne, J Ryan; C Allis (0-2), S Hickey (0-2), D Breen; K Downes (0-1), D Hannon (1-7, 1-6f, 0-1 65), G Mulcahy (0-2). Subs: S Dowling for D Breen (59 mins); N Moran for K Downes (65).

Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen is Health & Family Editor of The Irish Times