Gillane’s virtuoso performance powers Limerick to victory over Waterford

Late Déise goals threatened champions in intensely exciting Munster clash

Limerick 0-30 Waterford 2-21

Limerick, powered by Aaron Gillane’s virtuoso performance, recorded an 11th successive championship victory, in the TUS Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening. Waterford, who were enduring a fourth defeat in that run and at times struggling, ultimately did enough to keep alive hopes that the 2022 All-Ireland might be a contest down the line.

This was the first temperature check on a rivalry that, in its third year, has been regarded as Limerick’s most threatening, even though they had won the past two meetings by 11 points. During the recent league campaign, there was a sense that they had closed the gap on the champions but the first weekend of the provincial championship had maybe questioned that and this would be the test.

Late goals from Stephen Bennett, a precisely struck free, and Jack Prendergast, finishing a lethal move involving Bennett and Calum Lyons, suddenly reduced the margin to the minimum but the champions responded with the final two points, from replacement Pat Ryan and the immense Diarmaid Byrnes, whose tally from two Munster championship outings stands at 12, four from play.


There was still a sense that Limerick had looked in control for key stages and whenever threatened, appeared able to find crucial scores.

Waterford have to be heartened at their ability to push the champions and if there was a disappointment it was that they were so little supported in a crowd of 27,448 – the cross-country trek from the south-east proving unattractive to a significant number of their supporters.

In a change to the announced line-up, Austin Gleeson, whose introduction against Tipperary was part of the Waterford revival, started instead of Neil Montgomery and contributed some fine distance striking for five points.

Limerick had already taken a few hits. Already missing three All-Stars with the injuries to Séamus Flanagan and Kyle Hayes and the cruciate-sidelined Peter Casey, they lost their Hurler of the Year, Cian Lynch with a possible hamstring pull after 10 minutes.He was replaced by Cathal O'Neill.

The young hurler, who forfeited his under-20 place by playing senior the previous weekend in Cork, had an enthusiastic evening when coming in, striking three points and four wides.

If the champions had a wave of injury woes that left them some way short of full strength, Waterford were equally affected by one crucial injury as well as an uncharacteristic drop in form of some key players.

Stephen Bennett was uncharacteristically off-beam with a few of his frees – ironically given that his accuracy had kept them just about afloat in previous meetings and Tadhg de Búrca, the heart of their defence and whose knee injury early in the 2020 All-Ireland final had removed any vestiges of hope, was strangely peripheral.

This was though intensely exciting stuff. The elements favoured Waterford in the first half but a late-scoring charge by Gillane gave the home side a one-point lead at half-time.

The half swung to an extent on the loss of Iarlaith Daly, who limped off in the 28th minute having been doing a good job of restraining Gillane, allowing captain Conor Prunty to move out to take Gearóid Hegarty on the wing. On Daly's departure, Waterford switched Conor Gleeson onto the Limerick full forward, who promptly went to town on the scoreboard.

Waterford started well, moving the ball quickly and taking their chances – for the most part, as in the seventh minute when a brilliantly placed crossfield ball from Prendergast found Jack Fagan slipping in behind the defence. He stumbled but got the ball away to the incoming Mikey Kiely whose shot was blocked by Barry Nash and cleared.

Austin Gleeson’s free from his own territory gave them their biggest lead at 0-10 to 0-6 in the 25th minute but once Gillane was liberated he struck six points, 0-4 from play, of Limerick’s seven before the break to turn the match the champions’ way.

For the second half, Prunty was restored to full back but Gillane managed three more points from play.

The third quarter swayed one way and then another and was level when Limerick hit the pedal and knocked off seven unanswered points and looked to have quelled the rebellion.

That tit-for-tat period had seen Waterford recover a four-point deficit and from then on the teams were level five times. Austin Gleeson's run from deep ended in a shot from 20 metres, which Seán Finn did well to block. A previous effort from the same player flew across the goal but was retrieved by Dessie Hutchinson for a point.

Waterford need to get Hutchinson into the game more effectively. On limited rations he managed five from play and no wides. They managed no points in the final quarter but Bennett’s free and Prendergast’s crisp finish closed them to within a point.

Limerick still had the composure to see it out and once again got good value from their bench with five points.

LIMERICK: 1. N Quaid; 4. B Nash, 3. M Casey, 2. S Finn; 5. D Byrnes (0-6, 5f), 6. D Hannon (capt), 7. D Morrissey; 8. D O'Donovan (0-2), 9. W O'Donoghue; 10. G Hegarty (0-2), 11. C Lynch, 12. T Morrissey (0-2); 13. A Gillane (0-13, 7f), 14. C Boylan, 15. G Mulcahy.

Subs: 24. C O’Neill (0-3) for Lynch (10 mins), 25. D Reidy (0-1) for Boylan (50 mins), 26. P Ryan (0-1) for Mulcahy (57 mins).

WATERFORD: 1. S O'Brien; 2. C Gleeson, 17. I Daly, 4. S McNulty; 5. J Fagan, 6. T de Búrca, 3. C Prunty (capt); 8. D Lyons, 9. C Lyons (0-3); 26. A Gleeson (0-5, 0-3 f, 0-1 s), 11. J Prendergast (1-0), 12. P Curran (0-1); 13. D Hutchinson (0-5), 14. Stephen Bennett (1-7, 1-6f, 0-1 65) 15. M Kiely. Subs: 23. T Barron for Daly (28 mins), 25. J Barron for D Lyons (50 mins), 10. N Montgomery for Curran (67 mins), 7. C Daly for de Búrca (69 mins), 20. P Mahony for Kiely (71 mins).

Referee: Seán Stack (Dublin).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times