Martin Kiely Column - So far so good from Limerick hurlers

Cathal King in action for Limerick against Cork in the Waterford Crystal Cup final in Mallow on Saturday night
In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks back on the Limerick hurlers win in the Waterford Crystal Cup final.

In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks back on the Limerick hurlers win in the Waterford Crystal Cup final.

Winning can become a habit and for that reason it was encouraging to see the Limerick senior hurlers account for Cork in the Waterford Crystal Cup final last weekend.

Played in Mallow on a crisp cold evening for hurling Limerick were never really in any trouble in this game that for the most part was played with little physicality and the hurling was very open. This was a good run out for Limerick and it will help them in their preparation for Waterford in the opening round of the National Hurling League. It’s hard to know what the long-term future holds for this tournament but for only the second time since its inception Limerick won and made light work of the Cork challenge.

Cork made no secret of the fact that this tournament would be used to find some new players but from what I saw I am not so sure they have found too many. Cork have a large number tied up with college teams however so it is too early to judge. They fielded just a few of their championship team from last year whereas Limerick had eight, they wanted to win it and they did so emphatically.

This game will have little importance in the overall scale of things but these few games have shown us that Limerick have found a couple of more options in attack and chief amongst them is Cian Lynch.

The Cork defence were as open as the square in Mitchlestown and when Limerick ran at them they caused them loads of problems. Gavin O’Mahony was placed at centre forward where he did well, took his goal with confidence and he may give Limerick options here. He took his goal with confidence and overall added a much needed bite to this area of the field. It begs the question as to what role Limerick have in mind for Donal O’Grady who was centre-forward in last year’s championship but has played at centre-back in his two outing so far this year.

Scoring 3-20 from play is positive but it must be measured against the quality of opposition. Cork weren’t altogether weak but many of the players they had on view were struggling to do even the basics of the game. On so many occasions when they won possession they panicked, delivered without looking and on most cases a Limerick man was free to set up another attack. It’s worth noting that it’s very early in the year and both teams will have moved on a huge degree come the closing stages of the league and indeed the opening round of the championship.

From the games Limerick have played so far in the Waterford Crystal I am getting the sense that there will be competition for places from midfield on but I am not seeing too much competition in defence so far. That may come during the National League but for Limerick to make real progress this year I feel we will need to settle on a really strong half back line. This to me provides the platform for winning and if Limerick manages to strengthen this area then I feel they will be very difficult to beat. The likely absence of the Kilmallock contingent will result in experimentation in this area so it will be interesting to observe.

On Valentines night Limerick will host Waterford at the Gaelic Grounds under lights, it will be a huge game for Limerick because a win here will put them in the driving seat for promotion. The last few years have seen chances lost by Limerick and indeed the system has not always been too kind to them either.

They now have a very solid group of players who are ready to go to the next level. These players need to be testing themselves against the big teams during the league and that experience would prove crucial in the championship. TJ Ryan and his management team won’t be taking Waterford for granted but they have to be confident going into this game. I do expect Waterford to come with a major challenge but Limerick should be well capable of starting the National League on a winning note.

It was great to get the year off to a winning start against Cork last weekend and let’s hope it’s the start of more to come during the year.