THE Limerick hurlers fell to a disappointing 0-22 to 1-9 loss to Tipperary in the Waterford Crystal Cup quarter-final on Sunday afternoon.
THIS was a harsh reminder of the task that awaits Limerick on June 9 in the Munster SHC when Tipperary visit the Gaelic Grounds.
It is only January and only the Waterford Crystal Cup but Tipperary eased to this 10-point victory.
And, The Premier County men had more newcomers than Limerick on show in the quarter-final of this early season competition.
John Allen’s Limerick had 10 first choice championship players from last season in their starting team for this trip to Nenagh and all were in their accustomed positions. And among the subs used were Kevin Downes and Stephen Walsh.
Limerick had a preliminary round win over Mary Immaculate College under their belts from the prevous weekend but this was the first competitive outing of 2013 for Tipperary.
Under the new management of Eamonn O’Shea, it was clear that Tipperary wanted to get off to a winning start.
There wasn’t an apparant gulf in class, but at the same time Tipperary appeared to take their scores with more ease, picked the right passes, offered the correct support runs and generally hurled with more ease then Limerick.
Just like the win over Mary I, Limerick again hit 16 wides. While the forwards did find the range in that outing in Kilmallock, this time Limerick managed just five points from play in the 70 minutes.
Eleven of the wides came in the first half when Limerick were backed by the strong wind.
But it was Tipperary that led 0-10 to 0-8 at half time.
All looked okay after 13 minutes with Limerick 0-5 to 0-3 ahead.
Two of the scores came from Gavin O’Mahony long range frees, while Jams Ryan, Seamus Hickey and Niall Maher accounted for the others.
The positioning of Hickey at centre forward was the focus of attention for many. Certainly he hurled a lot of ball. Clearly his positional sense needs work if he is to remain in the attack, but he battled hard, won some nice ball and troubled the defence with his direct runs.
After these opening scores Limerick were to hit just another 1-4 in the remaining 57 minutes. The statistics show that’s a return of just two points from play in almost an hour’s hurling.
Yes the conditions were anything but favourable, but it was likewise for both and the Tipperary control appeared sharper.
It was this sharpness that saw them hit a purple patch before half time to snatch the interval lead.
On the change of ends, Limerick were slow to resume and four successive points inside six minutes had Tipp 0-14 to 0-8 clear.
Already the game was looking beyond Limerick.
Shane Dowling re-opened the Limerick account with a free in the 8th minute of the half.
Then 15 minutes in, Sean Tobin was upended and a penalty awarded. Dowling made no mistake to blast to the net.
That left it 0-15 to 1-9 with 20 minutes to play.
But Limerick were not to score again - meaning they went the entire second half with just two scores and none from open play.
While the Limerick defence appeared to hurl well at times, the pressure was too much and Tipperary tagged on scores at will to ease into the semi-finals against Limerick IT, who include six members of the current Limerick 39-man panel in their plans.
SCORERS - Limerick: Shane Dowling 1-3 (1-0 penalty, 0-2 frees), Niall Maher, Gavin O’Mahony (both frees) 0-2 each, Seamus Hickey, James Ryan 0-1 each. Tipperary: Brian O’Meara (one free), Eoin Kelly (three frees), Johnny Ryan (four frees, one ‘65) 0-5 each, Timmy Hammersley 0-3, Shane McGrath 0-2, John O’Dwyer, John O’Neill 0-1 each.
LIMERICK - Nickie Quaid; Shane O’Neill, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Wayne McNamara, Donal O’Grady, Gavin O’Mahony; James Ryan, Cathal King; Niall Maher, Seamus Hickey, Niall Moran; Mikey Ryan, Shane Dowling, Sean Tobin. Subs: Kevin Downes for Ryan (h-t), David Moloney for O’Mahony (h-t), David Reidy for Tobin (52mins), Thomas Quaid for Maher (58 mins), Stephen Walsh for Condon (64 mins).
TIPPERARY - Brendan Cummins; Conor O’Brien, Paul Curran, Donagh Maher; Joey McLoughney, Brendan Maher, Seamus Hennessy; James Woodlock, Johnny Ryan; John O’Dwyer, Timmy Hammersley, Patrick Maher; Brian O’Meara, Eoin Kelly, John O’Neill. Subs: Shane McGrath for Woodlock (52 mins), Shane Bourke for O’Dywer (54 mins), Mikey Heffernan for Kelly (59 mins).
REFEREE - Colm Lyons (Cork).