EXPECTATION met reality at the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday where Limerick were well behind Galway in the National Hurling League semi final.
This was a poor game of hurling and did little to boost the confidence of Limerick supporters ahead of the championship. Limerick looked like lads that had been cutting turf for the week coming into the game.
They showed no appetite for the game and sadly they never once looked like they could even raise a gallop. They were well beaten in many positions and a number of players will have to reflect on their performances.
Like on previous occasions this year I saw little method in their play. Much of their hurling was mediocre and once more we saw players trying to play remote control hurling.
They lacked instinct and reaction and it leaves them with lots to do before they play Clare in the championship. It might be that they had little interest in last Sunday's game.
The prize was a meeting with Tipperary in the final and the outcome of that could have done serious damage to the team heading into the championship. If that was the case it shows little ambition both from management and players.
I am told Limerick trained eight times over two weeks, so it was of little surprise to see them dragging their legs in this game.
The most surprising aspect in the aftermath of the game was that I didn’t see hurt in the faces of the players or the management. This on a day that saw them out hurled and outclassed.
Galway bossed this encounter, simple as that. From a strength and conditioning point of view Limerick looked like rag dolls compared to Galway. The power of the Galway players in the challenge saw Limerick lads spill the ball in nearly all tackles.
The gap between the teams as far as preparation, hunger and work rate was immense. The Limerick defence was under huge pressure for the entire contest and Galway should have won the game by a greater margin.
From a defensive point of view Limerick have some serious problems, but we didn’t have to wait till last Sunday to prove that point. The Galway forwards showed up the weaknesses and it will take more than a few repairs to get this area right for the Clare game.
If anything the pace that Clare will bring will be ahead of what Galway had to offer. Limerick could only manage six scores in the first half and had William O’Donoghue not scored a goal the scoreboard would have been pretty miserable at half time.
O’Donoghue’s goal came after twenty minutes but sadly Limerick could only manage two points in the last nineteen minutes of the opening half.
It could be said that losing Declan Hannon was a loss to Limerick, but I don’t think it would have changed the end result. Likewise Seamus Hickey was lost early in the second half, but like others he failed to dominate his position. A feature in many Limerick games to date has been the amount of wides they have hit. It was seventeen last Sunday and this is one area that needs special attention by the coach.
Their use of the ball was also very poor. It’s not easy being a forward with the style Limerick are playing. Seldom will a direct ball be hit and if it is the forward would need a JCB to cut his way in from the sideline.
Hitting high ball into Graeme Mulcahy gives him no chance. He must get it no further than the twenty one to make hay.
The Limerick attack offered little threat and their work rate was never at the pitch required to survive at this level. Shane Dowling hit his frees well, but he needs to offer more from play. Gearoid Hegarty struggled and was unable to match what he delivered against Cork.
David Dempsey worked hard and is making progress. He is good to snatch a ball in the air and to his credit brings others into the game.
It was hard to find positives in how Limerick played last Sunday. Too many players were in trouble. William O’Donoghue has a good engine and he won't be too far away from starting against Clare.
Going long spells without scoring is something that has permeated Limerick since the start of the year. It was the same last Sunday and unless that changes they will make little progress in the championship.
Of the subs that came in only Gavin O’Mahony and Barry Nash looked like they had something to offer.
They will push for a place against Clare, but on the evidence of what we saw in the Gaelic Grounds there are many positions up for grabs.
Many supporters went to this game looking for a statement of intent but that never arrived. There was no intensity in Limerick play.
They lacked the passion that one would associate with Limerick hurling and that was a major talking point amongst supporters after the game. They looked disinterested and that may yet come back to haunt them later in the year.
Wexford might have lost to Tipperary but you would have to give them great credit because the wanted to win the game. They were in it for long stages and although beaten they will have learned a lot from it. The same can’t be said of Limerick.
Supporters felt short changed with how Limerick played and that is really not acceptable. They went to the Gaelic Grounds expecting a performance but sadly they had to endure a heartless display.
The attention now will switch to championship and we can only hope that it will be different. It needs to be. The time for excuses is over.
The Limerick management have lots of things to refine and they have lots to do if they are to book a place in the Munster final. They have a few weeks now to plot the course and we can only hope they get it right.
They have to sort some major problems and they need to play more direct hurling. The National League should have put some of the major building blocks in place but on the evidence of last Sunday the foundation is still more than a bit shakey.
LOSING to Galway had some benefit to Limerick as the National League final will be in the Gaelic Grounds next Sunday. The result will mean an unexpected windfall for the Limerick County Board.
From a surface point of view the pitch was in fine order, but many other parts of the grounds are in a very poor state.
It may well be the only major game to be played in Limerick this year and the chances going forward of major games look slim.
Action will get underway at 1.30pm with the Camogie League final. Galway will face Tipperary at 3.30pm.