Limerick 1-21 Tipperary 1-14
Limerick’s first home match since their return to Division 1A of the Allianz League following an extended absence drew 8,559 paying customers to a cold, foggy Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night and the home supporters weren’t disappointed.
"There was a great crowd here tonight and that is the prize of getting up to 1A," Limerick manager John Kiely reflected after seeing his players pull up with a seven-point win.
“When did Tipp last come to Limerick for a Division 1A league match, or Kilkenny, or Clare, any of the [big] teams? That is what the crowd have been crying out for during the last eight years and, now that it’s here, it’s time to go and rock on now.”
Since their famine-ending All-Ireland triumph in August, Limerick have returned from their new year break in Mexico to record a win in their league opener in Wexford and now carve out this result against their Munster rivals.
So no All-Ireland hangover then?
“That question has been put to bed and it’s just a question of drive on now. We need to utilise more players, lads coming back from injuries, and we have an awful lot of work to do in terms of balancing the group and we have the Fitzgibbon Cup as well.”
Kiely paid tribute to his young charges for the manner in which they have re-dedicated themselves to the new season. “They are incredible lads, you know. I have seen it in training, they work extremely hard in training and they were bursting to get back training.”
However, it took a noticeable upward shift in gear in the second half to keep Limerick on the unbeaten road in this encounter.
Strangely sluggish in the first half, they didn't score from play until Darragh O'Donovan pointed in the 22nd minute, but remained in the hunt during that period thanks in large part to a flicked Graeme Mulcahy goal after 29, from a long Tom Morrissey ball.
Tipp had scored their only goal in the 23rd minute, Willie Connors latching onto an inward Noel McGrath missile and passing brilliantly to Patrick "Bonner" Maher, who matched the delivery with a superb strike to the net, helping the visitors to a 1-9 to 1-8 lead at the the break.
"Going in a point up, I felt we were full value for it," Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy said afterwards.
“Maybe it could have been a few more. Our first half was good, but at the same time I felt even in that first half they were probably working harder than us.
“We never really got to the level of work that they brought onto the pitch tonight. When they got four or five ahead near the finish we started launching in high balls and that is certainly not our style.”
Limerick spread the scores around in better fashion in the second half, with Aaron Gillane, Mulcahy, Diarmuid Byrnes and – twice – Conor Boylan doing the business from play and they moved four ahead as the game edged towards the last quarter.
Jason Forde missed Tipp's league opener through injury but came on in the first half here for the injured Dan McCormack and fizzed over three from play to prove he will be key to their plans this year.
However, their wide count was too high – seven in the second half with Callanan’s accuracy dipping from frees – while Limerick kept on track.
“We did well off our puckouts in the second half, much better than in the first half,” Kiely said. “We linked the play a bit better as well, we used the ball a bit better. We got runners off the shoulder, we were doing things better, we rose to the intensity of the game.”
LIMERICK: N Quaid; T Condon, S Finn, R English; D Byrnes (0-4, two frees, one '65'), D Hannon, D Morrissey (0-1); D O'Donovan (0-1), C Ryan; G Hegarty, T Morrissey (0-2), C Boylan (0-2); A Gillane (0-9, one '65', six frees), K Downes, G Mulcahy (1-1).
Subs: P Casey (0-1) for K Downes (44 mins), P O' Loughlin for D Hannon (49), K Hayes for C Boylan (56), P Ryan for G Mulcahy (64), C Lynch for D O'Donovan.
TIPPERARY: B Hogan; D Maher, J Barry, A Flynn; B Heffernan (0-1), R Maher, P Maher (0-1); R Byrne (0-1), M Breen (0-1); D McCormack, N McGrath (0-1), W Connors (0-1); J Morris, S Callanan (0-5, five frees), P Maher (1-0).
Subs: J Forde (0-3) for D McCormack (12 mins), N O'Meara for R Byrnes (49), M Kehoe for J Morris (54), K O'Dwyer for D Maher (54), J McGrath for M Breen (64).
Referee: Seán Cleere (Kilkenny).