Limerick crashed out of the Munster intermediate championship on Saturday when they were beaten 2-20 to 1-11 by Tipperary in Nenagh.
HIGH hopes that Limerick’s young intermediate hurlers could at least match the exploits of last year’s side by reaching another provincial final were banished in emphatic fashion by Tipperary in their Munster quarter-final tie at a sun-drenched MacDonagh Park, Nenagh on Saturday night.
The Limerick supporters who made the effort to travel to Nenagh less than 24 hours before facing another journey to Semple Stadium to watch the county’s senior side in Munster championship action were at a loss to explain why their side had produced such a disappointing performance.
Limerick paid a heavy price for a lethargic, laboured first half display, after which the visitors trailed by nine points, 1-10 to 0-4.
Despite the dismissal of full-forward Robert O’Donnell four minutes after the re-start, Limerick’s hurling improved through the second period and boosted by the introduction of substitute John Fitzgibbon and a terrific individual goal from Cappamore’s Eamonn Gleeson, the visitors rallied.
Mid-way through the second half, Limerick were finally beginning to make life uncomfortable for Tipp and drew within five points of their opponents on two occasions. However, the Shannonsiders’ were unable to sustain their challenge during the final quarter.
Tipp outscored Limerick 1-8 to 0-3 over the remaining minutes to deservedly set up a Munster semi-final meeting with Cork next month.
In recent years, Limerick have used the intermediate grade to help develop promising young players within the county, providing them with valuable inter-county experience at adult level.
Despite Saturday night’s defeat, at least the 11 members of the squad who are eligible for the U-21 grade this year will get an opportunity to play inter-county hurling later in the summer.
That fact was one of the few positives Limerick can take from their display against Tipp, however.
On a perfect evening for hurling, Limerick produced a lacklustre, lifeless first half display in front of 1,238 paying customers who basked in the warm sunshine.
A much livelier Tipperary side raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after 13 minutes and would have been further ahead but for some wayward shooting.
The home side took a firm grip on the game early in the second quarter when Paudie White and Evan Sweeney created the opening for corner forward David Butler to rifle the game’s opening goal.
Tipp were playing with an intensity and energy that Limerick were unable to match. The home side played with a purpose and composure Limerick lacked.
Limerick did have a glimmer of hope in the 23rd minute when Tipp goalkeeper James Logue was penalised for over-carrying. However, from the resultant 20 metre free, Robert O’Donnell’s effort flew over the crossbar.
By the 25th minute of the game, all six of Tipp’s forwards had scored from play and their advantage on the scoreboard continued to grow.
Trailing by nine points at half-time, the Limerick management team badly needed to ignite their challenge. In a bid to revive their hopes, Eamonn Gleeson and Eoin Ryan were switched to midfield at the start of the half.
Limerick were dealt another blow with O’Donnell’s dismissal in the 34th minute, following an off-the-ball incident. However, to their credit, they rallied well and Gleeson raced through the heart of the Tipp defence to score a smashing 37th minute goal.
With the lively John Fitzgibbon and Eoin Ryan firing over points, Tipp’s advantage was down to five points, 1-12 to 1-7 after 43 minutes.
Another couple of scores at this stage would have asked serious questions of the home side, but Limerick were unable to edge any closer.
As both counties emptied their respective substitutes’ benches in the hot conditions, Tipp re-established control on the game, reeling off a string of fine points and netting an injury time goal from Sean Carey after Limerick netminder Ger Flynn had denied Richie Ruth’s initial goal attempt with a fine save.
SCORERS – Tipperary: Sean Carey 1-3, Kieran Morris 0-5 (three frees), David Butler 1-1 (0-1 sideline cut), Richie Ruth 0-4, Paudie White, Damien O’Brien 0-2 each, Johnny Ryan, Evan Sweeney, John Sheedy 0-1 each. Limerick: Eamonn Gleeson 1-0, Eoin Ryan 0-3 (two frees, one ’65), Michael Ryan, Robert O’Donnell (two frees), John Fitzgibbon 0-2 each, Mark Deegan, Willie Griffin 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY – James Logue; Gerry Walsh, Kevin O’Gorman, Christy Coughlan; Joe Gallagher, Eddie Connolly, Ronan Sherlock; Michael Heffernan, Paudie White; Sean Carey, Damien O’Brien, Johnny Ryan; Kieran Morris, Evan Sweeney, David Butler. Substitutes: Richie Ruth for Sweeney (half-time), Niall Teehan for O’Brien (44 mins), John Sheedy for White (50 mins), David O’Connor for Butler (55 mins), Paudie O’Dwyer for Gallagher (58 mins).
LIMERICK – Ger Flynn; Stevie O’Reilly, Dan Morrissey, Conor Noonan; Eamonn Gleeson, Kyle Loftus, Alan Dempsey; Jason Hayes, Sean Herlihy; Eoin Ryan, Damien Moloney, Conor Kearney; Mikey Kiely, Robert O’Donnell, Michael Ryan.Substitutes: John Fitzgibbon for Herlihy (33 mins), John Malone for Kearney (40 mins), Thomas O’Callaghan for Noonan (51 mins), Mark Deegan for Loftus (52 mins), Willie Griffin for Kiely (54 mins).
REFEREE – Colm Lyons (Cork)