Martin Kiely chats to Limerick manager John Kiely after last week's win over Dublin
Deep down Limerick manager John Kiely would have expected more from Dublin last weekend. He might have hoped for a better challenge, a test that might show him another side to some of his players.
Sadly Dublin were as poor as I have seen them for sometime. They had no plan, direction or effort and as a result Limerick had this contest in control after the opening quarter.
Both teams were short players as a result of the progress by Na Piarsaigh and Cuala, but that aside, Dublin were shocking and at no stage did they trouble Limerick who were hurling within themselves.
What we know now is that Limerick have won their three opening games with a good bit to spare. That was kind of expected but it still leaves them without any real test. I think progress has been made but it’s very early days. The real test is yet to come and then and only then will we know where this team can go. On an individual basis a few players are starting to show sustained promise but I would be concerned that the team are still over elaborating hand passing. This was the case in the win over Dublin also and I fear they will be punished by better teams down the line if they continue with it.
As a game it was poor and that was no fault of Limerick. They could only deal with the tame challenge Dublin provided. Limerick were in total control by half time when they led 1 – 13 to 0 – 7. Aaron Gillane had the goal from a penalty after Barry Murphy was pulled down. Indeed Gillane accounted for 1 – 7 of Limericks total by half time. Tom Morrissey and David Reidy also hit good points. Dublin could manage only two points in the last quarter of the first half and by then you could see no way back for them. They looked ragged and at no stage could you say they were going to put it up to Limerick. When the Limerick forwards did get the odd quick ball they made use of it but all too often there was at least two hand passes too many in defence.
We expected more from Dublin in the second half but Limerick extinguished any hope of come a back with early points. Five in a row were slotted over by Gillane, two good scores from Seamus Flanagan while Gearoid Hegarty was also on target. Hegarty worked hard but his future is as a half back. He has been very impressive for UL in their win over Carlow IT. Limerick have to get their half backline sorted and to that end I think Declan Hannon has more to offer Limerick in attack. I would like to see Kyle Hayes and Gearoid Hegarty along side Diarmuid Byrnes and that to me has the potential to anchor this Limerick team. Byrnes had a fine game and is returning to good form. He can, at times, be a little wild in his striking and will sometimes shoot on sight but he is a major part of the Limerick defence.
The Dublin forward line didn’t present too many challenges to the Limerick defence but on a few occasions the full back line looked unsettled. Seamus Hickey feels it necessary to come forward and when he did he left huge gaps in front of goal and also left the ball behind him on a few occasions . He is finding his way in this position but he needs to be mindful of his primary duty.
Better forward lines will ask serious questions and the progress of the team will depend hugely on the players picked in this area. Regardless of the opposition Limerick are developing. They are working hard and opportunities will always come when this is the case. They are not creating too many goal chances and this will continue unless they get the ball to the forwards faster. Limerick have some quality players in their forward line. If they get early ball they will deliver. It might take a while more for this for the complete package to come together but I like the honesty on show from the players.
Another aspect that is improving is the ability of some players to win their own ball. This is a hugely important part of the modern game. Limerick are a big team and the value of that cannot be underestimated. Players like David Reidy are showing the promise we know he has. This young man was badly treated for a couple of years and at least now he is getting the opportunity he deserves. Sure he has a bit to go but game time is vital to the development of a player.
I saw Galway last weekend and while still only using a shadow of their All Ireland winning team they easily disposed of Offaly. They face Dublin next Sunday. If, as we expect, both Limerick and Galway win next weekend then the final group game on March 4 will be very interesting. The rest of the Galway team did a long session after the game and it was pretty heavy stuff. It will be a big ask of Limerick but this is the best time to catch Galway. They are behind others from a training point of view but they still have a lot of quality. Limerick have to make the long trip to Antrim next Sunday and they will be without players involved with UL. It will not be an easy contest by any means but it’s still a game they can win.
Na Piarsaigh player Jerome Boylan has been very busy in recent weeks. Just two weeks ago he helped his club reach the All Ireland club final and last Saturday he was part of the Ard Scoil Ris team that won the Harty Cup final. Mix all of that with the effort required to sit your Leaving Cert and you can see that this young man has a lot going on. His school had a fine win and they have a very proud record now in this competition. Up to now they have lost out as far as winning the All Ireland colleges final but this could well be their year.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the poor state of the Gaelic Grounds and thankfully work began this week in the toilets at the Mackey Stand side. This work is long overdue and it should never have been left as long as it was. You would really have to question what planning goes on prior to games at this venue. Last Saturday you had a couple of lads going around with sweeping brushes trying to tidy up areas that should have been done days before the game. It shows no planning, no respect and I repeat again the Limerick County board must have his base at the Gaelic Grounds.
A small bit of effort and imagination will produce fine offices and I hope that the new Chairman John Cregan will have this on his agenda very soon. It will take money to turn the Gaelic Grounds around but it will also take focus and that has not been the case for some years.
There is lots of office space and it wouldn’t be hard to create more.
The pitch was in a poor state for the Limerick versus Dublin game yet, all the while Clare, Cork and Tipperary could produce their pitches in excellent quality last weekend.