SEVENTY minutes and Kilkenny is what separates Limerick from a place in this year’s All Ireland final after they carved Wexford apart in Thurles last Sunday.
We expected a whole lot more from Wexford but in reality this game was over after twenty minutes as Limerick stamped their authority on the game from the opening minutes and at no stage could you say Wexford had a chance.
Limerick felt they did not take full advantage of the amount of possession they had in the Munster final and in the best way possible they responded in Thurles with a performance that left Wexford with many questions to answer.
In the opening minutes little enough separated the teams but once Graeme Mulcahy goaled the game ended as a contest and Limerick cruised into the dressing room knowing that they had the job done long before finishing time.
It was all about winning last Sunday because defeat would have ended championship aspirations for this year but now Limerick are back where they were last year and will want to put a few things right.
I liked the way Limerick never stopped working right to the finish last Sunday and I also liked that the subs bench was used. Too often over the past few years no changes were made and players that should have been introduced were not and thus their development was stymied.
Limerick started without Donal O’ Grady who was out due to injury and moved Declan Hannon to centre forward, Thomas Ryan was introduced on the wing and it can be said both players had a good enough afternoon and that will stand to them next time out.
Hannon played his best hurling in a good while at centre forward. Will the management leave him there or will they bring back O’ Grady?
Wexford while somewhat tired from playing so many games in a short time will know this was only part of story for them last Sunday as Limerick exposed the cracks in their defence with some good inter play and scores.
Both teams had some very bad wides in the opening twenty minutes; Limerick shot eight while Wexford were guilty of some terrible shooting and decision making. Limerick for all of their dominance were tested in some positions, Paudie O’ Brien was under pressure from Diarmuid O’ Keeffe who finished with three points and for me the defence will have to gel better as a unit against Kilkenny.
In a six minute spell Limerick took Wexford apart between the twenty fifth and thirty first minutes they scored 1-4 from play. David Breen who had a good game showed for the ball well and received a good pass from club mate Shane Dowling and blasted to the net.
David Breen has now put good games back to back and it would appear he is playing with more focus and is now getting the returns, which is great to see.
Those scores saw Limerick leading 1-15 to 0-5 and in reality there was no way back for Wexford who looked a beaten docket long before halftime. Shane Dowling scored a second goal after Breen had done much of the hard work and when the same player scored a third before halftime it was well and truly game over.
Wexford knew going in at halftime it was curtains and if they harboured any hope of a comeback it was short lived when Paul Browne weaved his way past a number of players to score Limerick’s forth goal.
That score drained the blood from the Wexford players who clearly knew that no matter what they did they had no hope of coming back into this game. Wexford had all five subs used by the three quarters stage and that tells its own story, on the day they could have made a few more and it wouldn’t have made any difference as Limerick had done the damage early.
This win will provide a great lift for all concerned and they can now start to focus on Kilkenny who most people feel have the All Ireland in sight once more.
I feel this is the time to face Kilkenny and while they have done well so far in winning the National League and Leinster championship I just don’t think they are the team they once were. I have seen Kilkenny play a good few times this season and the one thing I noticed above all was the hunger within the team and management.
They want to win another title and many of them know this is the last throw of the dice. To win one more would be the icing on the cake for them and Limerick will need to be ready to face that hunger in Croke Park in two weeks time.
They will need to focus on getting the simple things right and closing Kilkenny down from midfield in is so vital. Limerick will also need to make sure to have a few road blocks in place in defence and that will mean our midfielders covering back and our half forwards coming deep.
This game is there for the winning but planning will be a vital part of it. Limerick showed great heart last Sunday but the next match will provide the most severe test to date. Limerick players and management did what they had to do last Sunday and they are now coasting close to a place in the All Ireland final.
The next couple of weeks will provide them with the chance to mould a plan for Kilkenny and that will keep all concerned pretty busy for now. Job well done by all and now the journey to Croker begins.