Relentless and ruthless Limerick grind Waterford to smithereens at Croke Park

Defending All-Ireland champions show they have lost none of their hunger

Limerick’s Aaron Gillane celebrates scoring a goal during the All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Waterford at Croke Park. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Limerick’s Aaron Gillane celebrates scoring a goal during the All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Waterford at Croke Park. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

Limerick 1-25 Waterford 0-17

Sometimes, there’s just no answer. You may as well try to stop a bullet train by semaphore. Waterford came to Croke Park determined not to let what happened in last year’s All-Ireland final happen to them again. Yet it happened to them again. The best at their best leave you gawping.

Limerick are through to their third All-Ireland final in four years after an 11-point win that turned out to be exactly as comfortable as it sounds. They took a flurry of early blows from Waterford and went about their day with a minimum of fuss. At no stage from the 25th minute onwards did they look like losing.

What happens when you punch the bully in the mouth and he just smirks back at you? Where do you go then? Waterford wired into Limerick with everything they had in the opening quarter and all it got them was a one-point deficit at the water break. They came to storm the barricades and barely loosened so much as a Limerick tooth.

The waltz enjoyed by Gearóid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey in the All-Ireland final was never on the cards here. Waterford wouldn’t allow it. Both of them were sacked in the opening skirmishes, buried and turned over by madcap Waterford tackling. Kyle Hayes wasn’t in the game at all, Diarmaid Byrne was bundled out over the sideline. All of it sent a specific and not particularly subtle message.

Problem was, all the tackling in the world says nothing unless you express it on the scoreboard. And Waterford picked exactly the wrong day to lose their radar. They were breaking par physically but it was no good to them because of the balls they were hitting wide and short. They should have been ahead after the first quarter but a tally of six wides meant they were 0-4 to 0-3 behind.

And though they scored the first point after the water break through Austin Gleeson – a smart effort after Seán Finn had been turned over by yet more ferocious Waterford tackling – Limerick just checked their lip for blood, shrugged and proceeded to pummel them into submission.

The champions reeled off the next six points in a row. Aaron Gillane got in for a goal but his shot whistled a foot too high, Séamus Flanagan speared one after Waterford got turned over in their half-forward line, Hegarty worked a one-two off a sideline ball to flick his first of the day. Just like that, they were 0-8 to 0-4 ahead and Waterford were wobbling.

Liam Cahill’s side needed a settler but Gleeson took the wrong option soon after, a half-hearted goal effort when a handy point would have kept them ticking over. Flanagan made them pay at the other end almost immediately and further scores from Gillane (a free) and Byrnes meant it was all getting away from Waterford very quickly.

Cian Lynch was enjoying himself now, dancing around midfield like a birthday boy on a bouncy castle. He whipped a point off scraps to put Limerick 0-12 to 0-5 ahead, sandwiched by clinical efforts from Peter Casey and Morrissey. All Waterford had in reply was Stephen Bennett’s first pointed free of the day – at his fifth attempt.

The half ended with Lynch stroking his third of the day, gambolling on to a smart lay-off from Casey on the Waterford 45. It meant that Limerick went to the break 0-15 to 0-7 ahead. They washed through that second quarter outscoring Waterford by 0-11 to 0-4. Waterford only scored two points from play in the whole half.

It was over, in all reality. Limerick had soaked up all the windmilling Waterford could muster and then just smacked them silly. There was nothing overly stylish or intricate about it, just an awesome display of the power that has carried them to two All-Irelands with God knows how many more in the post.

The second half was mostly book-keeping. Morrissey and Hegarty were rampant, the former stitching the first point after the restart from the latter’s pass. Flanagan and Casey helped themselves to a couple more and by the 45th minute, Limerick were 0-18 to 0-8 ahead.

Waterford owed it to themselves to put in the spurt and when Calum Lyons strode forward for a defiant score soon after, it led to a mini-revival. Stephen Bennett was nailing his frees now, Dessie Hutchinson swished a welcome point and next thing you knew, Waterford had scored four in a row to get within six, 0-18 to 0-12.

That was as tight as it got though. Byrnes halted their gallop with a free from distance – one of three he planted across the evening – and soon after, the killshot came from Gillane. Casey put Hegarty away in space, the Hurler of the Year rode a tackle from Lyons for the first time all day and flicked his handpass to Gillane eight yards out. The finish found the top corner and that was that. Limerick were 1-20 to 0-14 ahead and the day was done.

There was time still for Nickie Quaid to make a couple of saves, one from Gleason and another from Jamie Barron. And for Morrissey, Hegarty and Byrnes to grind whatever was left of the Waterford challenge to dust. They are relentless, they are ruthless, they are mad for more.

It’s hard to see anyone stopping them.

LIMERICK: 1 N Quaid; 2 S Finn, 3 D Morrisey, 4 B Nash; 5 D Byrnes (0-3, two frees), 6 D Hannon (capt),7 K Hayes; 8 W O’Donoghue (0-1), 9 D O’Donovan (0-1, free); 10 G Hegarty (0-1), 11 C Lynch (0-3), 12 T Morrissey (0-5); 15 P Casey (0-2), 13 A Gillane (1-5, four frees), 14 S Flanagan (0-4).

Subs: 25 D Reidy for Hegarty (66 mins), 22 G Mulcahy for Flanagan (68 mins), 20 R English for Byrnes (68 mins), 17 C Boylan for Lynch (70 mins), 19 C Coughlan for Nash (73 mins).

WATERFORD: 1 S O’Brien; 4 S McNulty, 3 C Prunty (capt), 2 I Kenny; 5 C Lyons (0-2), 24 C Gleeson, 7 K Bennett (0-1); 8 J Barron (0-2), 9 P Hogan; 10 J Fagan, 11 J Prendergast, 12 Stephen Bennett (0-6, five frees),; 13 D Hutchinson (0-2), 14 A Gleeson (0-4, one free, one s/l), 6 Shane Bennett.

Subs: 21 M Kiely for Prendergast (44 mins), 18 D Lyons for Hogan (44 mins), 22 N Montgomery for Fagan (52 mins), 20 S Fives for Kenny (55 mins), 15 P Curran for Shane Bennett (55 mins).

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.