Fanning at a loss to explain why it’s all gone so wrong for Waterford
Limerick boss Kiely pleased to see a return to better form by All-Ireland champions
John Kiely: “Overall, the whole attitude of what we were about today was much better.” Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Sunday saw the first championship match between the counties at a Waterford venue for 89 years. From the home team’s point of view, it might be as well if they have to wait the same amount of time before seeing a repeat of what happened at Walsh Park on Sunday before a crowd of just fewer than 11,000.
Limerick came into this Munster championship encounter under pressure of knowing that defeat could well spell the end of their All-Ireland title defence.
A 20-point victory laid such concerns to rest but the display had to be filtered through the desperate poverty of the Waterford challenge.
For victorious manager John Kiely, there was simply relief to get back into the swing of things after the setback at home two weeks previously.
“The first game is always difficult. Coming into it, we would have liked to have another game or two [but it’s] hard to get challenge games.
“The bottom line is we weren’t right on the day. The boys have shown they have plenty appetite for it. Who knows what it will come down to yet? We’ve got to regroup quickly and make sure we’re in the best shape we can be next weekend.”
Asked what had been the most pleasing aspect of the win, he answered immediately.
“Our work-rate up front. We worked really hard, put an awful lot of pressure on the Waterford backs. Turned over a good lot of ball and got good scores. Overall, the whole attitude of what we were about today was much better.”
The match turned as early as the 15th minute when Aaron Gillane scored Limerick’s first goal but the second half might as well not have featured two teams. Waterford manager Pauric Fanning talked about the virtual no-show by his team after half-time.
“I just the think the lads were . . . whether it was because it was on the back of the Tipperary game when we were outnumbered in the last 15 minutes, that goal deflated us there.
“I think we got a little bit deflated in the second half again maybe, too quickly maybe at times, and whether that’s mental or whatever it is that’s probably something we’ve got to look at. It definitely got in on the lads alright at that stage.”
Fanning discussed the decision to remove former Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson at the break and said that it had been tactical.
“Yeah. With Austin we had a certain game-plan and I just didn’t think he was getting on the ball in the first half. I think possessions in the first half, their midfielders had 24 and we had 8. So it was kind of one area of the field we weren’t quite... we were up against it.
“Look, that was it. They’re calls you make. Are they calls you want to make? No, and we were changing tactics a little bit, too, at that stage.”
Asked had he been surprised at the amount of space his team had been afforded in that second half, Kiely hesitated.
“Emm, I don’t think it happened too much. Our lads were trying really, really hard to create space and have options. We wanted every player on the ball to have not just one option but maybe, three options. When you’re demanding fellas are looking for the ball that much, there will be fellas found in space.”
There is likely to be giraffes found in space before Waterford have quite such a depressive afternoon at a home championship match and Páraic Fanning wasn’t hiding his dismay.
“Everybody is very disappointed and we’re trying to figure out, I suppose, based on the overall preparations through the year how we ended up where we are now. That’s the hard part for us all to figure, at the moment.
“That is the challenge. That’s the thing that’s been frustrating over the last game or two, that – as I said – we’ve prepared really well. We had a good decent league. We know ourselves the championship hasn’t gone to plan, there’s no point saying otherwise.”
It wasn’t a flawless display by Limerick and their manager responded tartly when his attention was drawn to the 19 wides.
“If we’d only 19 shots at goal I’d be worried. I never worry about it so don’t you start!”