Limerick finally emerge from Division 1B and into the light

Galway boss Micheál Donoghue says Shannonsiders ‘had more desire than our boys’

Limerick’s Kyle Hayes jinks past Galways’s Conor Whelan and Johnny Coen. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Limerick 2-18 Galway 1-19

“We were tired of being in 1B” John Kiely said afterwards as a small and unexpected Limerick party started in Salthill.

Just 40 minutes earlier, such a breakout seemed unlikely. Trailing by eight points against the All-Ireland champions, in their home ground and seeking to get back into the top flight for the first time in eight years: Limerick couldn’t have set themselves a tougher task.

Their first lead came in the 68th minute, when Cian Lynch came storming through the fractured middle of Galway’s defence to float his first score of a hugely productive hour. By then, Galway had become embroiled in the kind of battle redolent of July. The game had been elevated to a level of intensity they neither expected nor wanted.


After posting a lazily graceful 1-15 in the first half, the All-Ireland champions were held to just 0-4 in a second half in which Limerick contested everything with total commitment and ferocity. Remarkably, just one of those scores came from play, a scrambled effort from Conor Whelan who was given no room to breathe.

“I’ll be straight up: we looked to get a couple of scores and follow a score with a score and garner momentum,” Kiely said of the half-time masterplan.

“We had the breeze and we were well set up defensively. We knew we wouldn’t concede a lot. We just needed to get the scores on the board. Listen, I know Galway probably tried in the last quarter. I’d say we have a bit more done than them. At the same time, surviving that onslaught in the last ten minutes, I think we can take confidence from that.”

This isn’t a disaster for Micheál Donoghue but it does give Galway some food for thought. In the general sense, a 15-game unbeaten run ended here. In the immediate sense, they have a mouth watering quarter-final in Wexford next weekend.

Their quality and class was evident in that exhibition-style first half, a strange half hour which moved between low-intensity and high aggravation. David Burke, on the receiving end of two heavy hits, uncharacteristically responded to being pulled by his shirt off the ground as a row flared, the first real hint that Limerick weren’t ready to accept the pattern of the game to that point. Burke came in as a late replacement and was splendid for the first twenty minutes, when he suffered a head wound in a collision. Around him, Cathal Mannion stung Limerick for 1-5 as Galway seemed to find the time and space to create a series of eye-catching scores which left the Limerick men in their slip stream.

Limerick’s Sean Finn celebrates after his side’s win over Galway. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

“People will probably say that we played badly in the first half,” Kiely said.

“We actually didn’t play terribly badly. I think in the first 15 minutes people could see the difference between where Galway have been for the past couple of years and where we are.

“There was an adjustment to be made and we struggled for a couple of periods here and there. Coughed up a few possessions and a few vital turnovers. Didn’t get reset for their puck-out. Things like that. But we never panicked.

“We had 12 wides in the first half. So we were getting the shots off. There was eight in it at half time . . .imagine if we got half of those, there would have been two in it. So we needed to work harder and be more efficient up front.”

‘Work harder’ may have been a euphemism for defend as though possessed by the bad memory of all those years on the margins of league hurling. Tom Morrissey, Richie English and Declan Hannon suffocated the Galway attack while at the other end, Aaron Gillane (who hit 1-7 from placed balls) and Barry Murphy were beginning to hum with menace.

Kiely made a brave call to withdraw Seamus Flanagan, who had hit five terrific points from play, after 60 minutes, to inject further speed in the Limerick full forward line. It worked. Graham Mulcahy and Pat Rice flicked over two of the last three scores as a hint of desperation crept into the Galway play. The game had become virtually unrecognisable to that which they had played in the first half.

“No, it didn’t click for us in the second-half,” said Donoghue.

“I thought in the first-half we got into a lead when the game wasn’t massively intense. In the second-half, they upped the intensity levels. They had a lot more desire than our boys. It was as simple as that. We still have a lot in the tank.

“The pluses today were that Joe [Canning]and Davy [Glennon]got game-time. Getting lads back on the pitch is the most important thing. The perception outside, more than ourselves, was about promotion. For us, we didn’t change the template from last year. It was about using the league to get us as close to the championship. Nothing has changed.”

Except if you are from Limerick.

GALWAY: 1 J Skehill; 2 A Touhy, 3 S Bannon, 4 P Mannion; 5 G Lally (0-2), 6 G McInerney, 7 A Harte, 8 J Coen (0-2), 20 D Burke (0-1);10 S Maloney, 11 C Mannion (1-4), 13 C Whelan; 14 J Flynn (0-7, 6 frees), 15 C Cooney (0-2), 12 N Burke. Substitutes: 9 J Hansbury for 2 A Touhy (46 mins), J Canning (0-1 65) for S Moloney (53 mins), 18 S Cooney for 5 G Lally (55 mins), 24 D Glennon for J Flynn (58 mins),22 B Concannon for 12 N Burke (68 mins),

LIMERICK: 1 N Quaid, 2 S Finn, 18 R McCarthy, 4 R English; 5 D Byrnes, 6 D Hannon, 7 D Morrissey; 8 P Browne, 9 C Lynch (0-1); 10 G Hegarty (0-1), 11 T Morrissey 12 D Reidy (0-2); 13 A Gillane (1-7;pen,7 frees), 14 S Flanagan (0-5), 15 B Murphy. Substitutes: 23 K Hayes (1-0) for 10 G Hegarty (19 mins inj), 22 G Mulcahy (0-1) for S Flanagan (60 mins), 20 P Ryan (0-1) for 12 D Reidy (63 mins), 24 C Ryan for 8 P Browne (65 mins),

REFEREE: C McAllister (Cork).

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times