Limerick’s rolling wave leaves Waterford drowning in its wake

John Kiely’s side show that the gap back to the rest is growing

Limerick 0-30 Waterford 0-19

The least predictable year has ended with the champions most people fancied at the start. The virus upended everything except the basic truth of Limerick’s strength and power and with it, their dominance over the hurling championship. They put Waterford through the mincer here and feasted on what remained.

By the end, this couldn’t have been more different to 2018. Limerick strode to the All-Ireland without a second thought. There was no fretting, no ghosts from history, no not being able to look. This was business, plain and simple. Waterford could have been anyone – they’d have been crushed just the same.

The margin was 11 points but it could have been anything. Limerick end the year with a five-game average of exactly 30 points. They tossed Waterford aside by playing to their idea of par and daring Liam Cahill’s side to keep up. Long before the final whistle, it was clear that wasn’t really an option.


When they're in this kind of mood, Limerick are a rolling wave. The best you can hope for is to hold your breath and try to recover your feet as soon as it washes over you. You'd call Tom Morrissey and man-of-the-match Gearóid Hegarty a one-two punch, except that one of them usually does the trick – there's rarely need for the two.

Morrissey had three points on the board by half-time, Hegarty had two. But the bare numbers don't really do justice to their influence. They were monstrous under the Limerick puck-out and enterprising in bringing others into the game. Hegarty sent Cian Lynch away for an early goal chance that Lynch butchered and twice drew the Waterford cover to make space for Aaron Gillane to swish points of his own.

Limerick led by 0-8 to 0-4 at the first water break, although it could have been much worse. Apart from that Lynch chance, Waterford needed Stephen O'Keeffe to pull off a stunning double save. Kyle Hayes was relentless on the Waterford puck-out all day and as soon as he snapped onto this one, a quick transfer to Lynch meant the goal was on even though they were still only in midfield. No sooner had O'Keeffe repelled Hayes's shot but he had to get down to his left to block Lynch's rebound effort.

You can only catch so many bullets, however. No sooner had the water break passed but disaster struck for Waterford. Tadhg de Búrca went down in the middle of a bout of shoving and immediately took off his helmet. Having spent last winter recovering from a torn cruciate, De Búrca looked resigned to his fate.

At that point, you could forgive Waterford for being resigned to theirs. Gillane tapped over a couple of frees, Will O’Donoghue landed a bomb from midfield, Hayes and Hegarty kept the foot to the floor. Waterford got to the break only a puck of a ball behind, with the scoreline sitting at 0-14 to 0-11. In the dressingroom, it would have felt like an achievement.

Limerick’s first order of business upon the restart, then, was to quell all notions of a rebellion. And so, from there until the second water break, Hegarty and Morrissey played as if they were affronted by the very idea. Three times in four minutes, Morrissey fed Hegarty and Hegarty split the posts. Add in a couple of sweet strikes by Séamus Flanagan – who had barely a false stroke all day and soon Limerick were sailing off into the distance.

It was an awesome performance from the half-forward pair, Hegarty in particular. He careered around Croke Park like a possessed dodgem, blissfully unconcerned with the destruction he was leaving in his wake. He scored four from play in that third quarter alone, the phase of the game in which Limerick truly asserted their ownership of the title. The three-point lead was eight by the water break.

It was an accounting exercise after that. Waterford tried a few potshots at Nickie Quaid without ever making him have to stretch himself. Both Stephen Bennett and Calum Lyons had sighters that the All Star-elect dealt with easily.

All the while, Limerick were perfectly happy to tick along without going green flag-hunting at the other end. Hegarty, Morrissey and Gillane tacked on point after point at will. They pucked a few careless wides here and there as time ran down but they had no bearing on the outcome.

Limerick’s All-Ireland. And if anything, the distance back to the rest of the field looks to be growing.

LIMERICK: 1 Nickie Quaid; 2 Seán Finn, 3 Dan Morrissey, 4 Barry Nash; 5 Diarmaid Byrnes (0-1), 6 Declan Hannon (0-1), 7 Kyle Hayes (0-1); 8 Darragh O'Donovan, 9 Will O'Donoghue (0-1); 10 Gearóid Hegarty (0-7), 11 Cian Lynch, 12 Tom Morrissey (0-5); 13 Aaron Gillane (0-10, six frees), 14 Séamus Flanagan (0-3), 15 Graeme Mulcahy.

Subs: 19 Peter Casey for Mulcahy (49 mins), 25 David Reidy for O'Donovan (59 mins), 26 Pat Ryan (0-1) for Flanagan (63 mins), 24 Paddy O'Loughlin for Hayes (71 mins).

WATERFORD: 1 Stephen O'Keeffe; 2 Ian Kenny, 3 Conor Prunty (capt), 4 Shane McNulty; 5 Calum Lyons (0-1), 6 Tadhg de Búrca, 7 Kevin Moran (0-1); 8 Jamie Barron, 9 Kieran Bennett (0-1); 11 Neil Montgomery, 15 Jack Prendergast, 10 Jack Fagan; 13 Dessie Hutchinson (0-1), 12 Stephen Bennett (0-10, nine frees), 14 Austin Gleeson (0-5).

Subs: 25 Iarlaith Daly for de Búrca (22 mins), 23 Darragh Lyons for K Bennett (40 mins), 22 Conor Gleeson for Montgomery (44 mins), 20 Patrick Curran for Moran (52 mins), 26 Shane Fives for Kenny (55 mins).

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).