Limerick hurlers crush Antrim

RECORDS were smashed all round in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday as the Limerick senior hurlers eased into round three of the All-Ireland Qualifiers.

RECORDS were smashed all round in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday as the Limerick senior hurlers eased into round three of the All-Ireland Qualifiers.

The harsh reality is that the game was all but over after 11 minutes when Limerick were 4-2 to 0-2 ahead.

Just like the 6-21 to 1-11 win over Laois the previous Saturday, Limerick certainly approached this game in the right mentality and set about putting the game beyond doubt as soon as possible.

While no one likes to see any side on the end of a result like this, there is a welcome ruthless steak developing in this Limerick side.

When hot favorites likes Limerick were the trick is to put the underdogs on the back foot early and not allow any suggestion of an upset. The backdoor route can often throw up shocks or uneasy victories, but John Allen’s Limerick have gone about the two games to-date in a most impressive fashion.

Including the Tipperary game, Allen and his management team of John Kiely, Eamonn Meskell and Donach O’Donnell have now given championship match experience to 26 players – just four on the panel are yet to feature.

Real options are developing and hopefully they could yet get a game when all 30 players are match fit but at present Conor Allis, Paul Browne, Kevin Downes all missed the Antrim game injured, while captain David Breen was forced off injured after just 15 minutes.

Next up for Limerick will be a tie on the weekend of July 14/15 against either Clare or Dublin, or Cork or Offaly. That tie will be played at a neutral venue and a victory would return Limerick to the quarter-final stage that they reached last season.

If nothing else the combined 14-47 scored against Laois and Antrim means that, for once, confidence should be high among the exciting talents of the young forwards.

Again this one-sided win over Antrim displayed the scoring power that now exists in Limerick and while the opposition was far from impressive, the Shannonsiders still had to put the ball between the posts and indeed notched just six wides, compared to 17 for Antrim.

Antrim won the toss and opted to play with the wind and from the throw-in the Limerick tactic was clear.

Firstly Thomas O’Brien ran at the defence and when he laid off to Sean Tobin he rattled home the first goal inside a minute.

Four minutes later, David Breen again ran directly at the defence and this time it was his club colleague Shane Dowling that found the net.

And, the trend continued with Niall Moran and Dowling adding goals in succession in the 7th and 8th minutes.

At 4-2 to 0-2 and with Antrim playing with the strong wind the result was already a forgone conclusion with all of 59-minutes still to play.

The fifth goal came in the 16th minute when this time it was Graeme Mulcahy that raced through the defence to net the net.

Dowling added a free to leave it 5-3 to 0-5.

Limerick then completely took the foot off the pedal for the remaining 20-odd minutes.

Antrim were allowed too much space and duly brought their tally to 13 points and it could have been more but for their 11 wides.

Limerick simply didn’t complete for the closing 20 minutes of the half, although there were late points from sub Declan Hannon, Thomas O’Brien and Mulcahy to leave it 5-7 to 0-13 at the break.

The lacklustre attitude of the second quarter was completely absent on the change of ends. Clearly questions were asked of the players at half time and unfortunately for an Antrim point of view Limerick were very impressive in the second half.

The three goals of the half came in the 4th minute (Dowling), 16th (Moran) and 17th Mulcahy).

Antrim scores just twice – McAuley point in the seventh minute and then McManus goaled in the dying seconds.

They almost grabbed a second goal but an injury time penalty from Liam Watson was saved by a combination of Donal O’Grady and debutante Aaron Murphy.

SCORERS – Limerick: Shane Dowling 3-9 (0-5 frees, 0-1 ’65), Graeme Mulcahy 2-4, Declan Hannon 0-6, Sean Tobin 1-3, Niall Moran 2-0, Seanie O’Brien 0-2, Thomas O’Brien, Richie McCarthy 0-1 each. Antrim: Liam Watson 0-6 (five frees), Neil McManus 1-1, Shane McNaughton 0-3, Barney McAuley 0-2, Neil McAuley, Eddie McClosky 0-1 each.

LIMERICK – Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Wayne McNamara, Donal O’Grady, Gavin O’Mahony; Thomas O’Brien, James Ryan; Shane Dowling, Brian Geary, David Breen; Graeme Mulcahy, Niall Moran, Sean Tobin. Subs: Declan Hannon for Breen (injured - 15mins), Aaron Murphy for Quaid (injured - half time), Seanie O’Brien for Geary (51 mins), Shane O’Neill for Condon (52mins), Seamus Hickey for McNamara (54mins).

ANTRIM – Damien Quinn; PJ O’Connell, Neil McGarry, Aaron Graffin; Neil McAuley, Johnny Campbell, Michael Gettens; Barney McAuley, Shane McNaughton; Eddie McClosky, Neil McManus, Barry McFall; Liam Watson, Conor Carson, Paul Shiels. Subs: John Kerr for O’Connell, inj (20mins), Joey Scullion for McFall (h-t) Michael Herron for Gettens (46mins).

REFEREE – Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).