Champions: Limerick end 22 year wait for hurling league title with Waterford victory

Jerome O'Connell in Croke Park

Reporter:

Jerome O'Connell in Croke Park

Email:

joconnell@limerickleader.ie

Limerick Waterford League Final

LIMERICK are Allianz Hurling League champions for the first time since 1997.

The 22 year wait for league glory was ended with a 1-24 to 0-19 final win over Waterford in Croke Park this Sunday.

In just the third Croke Park hurling league final in 20 years, Limerick become just the third county in 30 years to win a league title the Spring after lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

This is Limerick's 12th ever league title in what was a 21st final appearance.

Back in the final for the first time since 2006, Limerick led from start to finish to claim the title in their eight game of the campaign, where 33 different players saw action.

Limerick led by six points after 12-minutes and by half time the scoreboard showed the men in green 1-12 to 0-10 ahead.

That five point lead was despite eight first half wides - twice that of Waterford.

Back in Croke Park for the first time since the August 19 All-Ireland final win, Limerick few from the traps to lead 0-8 to 0-2.

Aaron Gillane had 1-3 from play by the interval and was among those early scores, along with Cian Lynch and Gearoid Hegarty.

The early momentum almost brought a sixth minute goal but Stephen O'Keeffe was brave in The Decies goal to deny Gillane.

Nonetheless the Limerick scoring continued with a Darragh O'Donovan lineball and second points from play for Gillane and Hegarty.

That was a well deserved six point lead but then Waterford found their feet - pressurising Limerick into some turnovers and fouls which were punished with a run of four scores for the men in blue and white.

Graeme Mulcahy ended a run of 10-minutes without a Limerick score in the 22nd minute but by the time Stephen Bennett had his fifth pointed free, there was just a point between the teams with just under 10-minutes to the break.

Then came a real moment of brilliance from Gillane - the Patrickswell man getting the slightest of touches to guide the sliothar to the net after Tom Morrissey delivered a head-high pacy ball from out the field.

Waterford did hit back with two of their five first half points from play and the lead was just two points again.

They started on top and Limerick were also to finish on top with another three points in the final three minutes - Gillane, Morrissey and Graeme Mulcahy on the mark.

That left it 1-12 to 0-10 at half time.

Limerick continued where they left off on the resumption with four of the first five points to move eight points clear for the first time - 1-16 to 0-11 with eight minutes played in the new half.

It was a score from distance from captain Declan Hannon that brought Limerick to 1-16 - the eighth different scorer for John Kiely's men.

Ten minutes into the half Waterford hit back - three in a row to settle Pauric Fanning's team.

But it was that man Aaron Gillane that stopped the run of scores with two of his own to bring him to 1-5 from play and move Limerick seven clear again.

He almost combined with Tom Morrissey to set up a 55th minute goal but instead it brought Limerick to 14 wides.

As the scores dried up for both sides, sub Seamus Flanagan announced his arrival to move Limerick to 1-19 inside the last 10-minutes.

Casey, Hegarty and Lynch saw out the scoring in an eight point win.

SCORERS: Limerick: Aaron Gillane 1-9 (4frees), Gearoid Hegarty and Peter Casey 0-3 each, Cian Lynch and Shane Dowling (1free) 0-2 each, Darragh O'Donovan (lineball), Tom Morrissey, Graeme Mulcahy, Declan Hannon and Seamus Flanagan 0-1 each. Waterford: Stephen Bennett 0-9 (6frees), Pauric Mahony 0-4 (3frees), Austin Gleeson 0-2 (1lineball), Kevin Moran, Michael Walsh and Philip Mahony 0-1 each.

LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid; Tom Condon, Sean Finn, Richie English; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Dan Morrissey; Cian Lynch, Darragh O'Donovan; Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, Tom Morrissey; Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey, Graeme Mulcahy. Subs: Mike Casey for Tom Condon (h-t), Seamus Flanagan for Graeme Mulcahy (55mins), Shane Dowling for Tom Morrissey (63mins), Barry Murphy for Aaron Gillane (63mins), Paddy O'Loughlin for Declan Hannon (68mins).

WATERFORD: Stephen O'Keeffe; Shane McNulty, Calum Lyons, Noel Connors; Philip Mahony, Tadhg de Burca, Kevin Moran; Jamie Barron, Michael Walsh; Austin Gleeson; Mikey Kearney, Pauric Mahony; Peter Hogan, Stephen Bennett, Shane Bannett. Subs: Jack Prendergast for Michael Walsh (h-t), Thomas Ryan for Shane Bennett (46mins), Conor Prunty for Calum Lyons (47mins), Patrick Curran for Peter Hogan (56mins), Stephen Roche for Mikey Kearney (59mins).

REFEREE: James Owens (Wexford).