They may not have been the best exhibitions of Munster hurling but today’s results in the provincial championships proved crucial in the round-robin table.
Limerick overcame Waterford on a scoreline of 2-24 to 0-10 sending them to an early championship exit for the second year running while Tipperary exacted their revenge on Clare with a 3-21 to 0-17 win in Cusack Park.
Read our conclusions from the two Munster Championship games below.
One Bad Game Doesn’t Make A Bad Team
Limerick came to Walsh Park with a point to prove today following their disappointing outing against Cork two weeks ago. Much of that performance could perhaps have been put down to rustiness having not played the first week but there’s no denying that the players gave a very poor account of themselves.
They performed a complete 360 this week, albeit Waterford didn’t pose the same level of challenge as Cork. Their forwards were once again singing off the same hymn sheet and received proper service despite the tightness of the Walsh Park pitch. Gearoid Hegarty was immense in the half-forward line, William O’Donoghue and Paddy O’Loughlin gave good accounts of themselves while Darragh O’Donovan and Shane Dowling made convincing cases for starting positions upon their introductions.
It was an all-around positive return to form for Kiely’s men but they will be fully aware that tougher challenges await them. Clare travel to Gaelic Grounds next Sunday and both teams will be desperate to avoid being the second side to drop out of the competition at this early stage. They have caused major problems for Limerick in recent meetings so it will be interesting to see if the move out of Cusack Park can give Limerick an advantage over their noisy neighbours.
Serious Concerns Over Future Of Waterford Hurling
Where do Waterford go from here? They are out of contention in the Munster championship with a game to spare for the second year running. Bear in mind that this is, for the most part, the same squad who reached the All Ireland final just two years ago. It’s hard to put a finger on what has gone wrong for them since then but it does not bode well for the future.
Padraic Fanning seemed to have put his own stamp on this team when he took over from Derek McGrath and they showed some very promising signs throughout the league. However, championship is a different animal and they have exited with barely a whimper.
What was worrying in today’s game was their lack of leaders. Austin Gleeson has been poor throughout the championship, Jamie Barron barely touched the ball and Tadhg de Burca made some uncharacteristic errors.
They were naturally frustrated at the manner in which they were outmanoeuvred by Limerick but that was no excuse for some of their challenges, Maurice Shanahan should have been sent off, by the letter of the law Shane Bennett could have been and Pauric Mahony eventually was. While there were positives, like the performance of Conor Prunty, the loss has left Waterford hurling with a grey cloud over its head.
They now have one game left against Cork before they face into yet another long summer during which hard and difficult questions will have to be addressed.
Who Can Put A Halt To The Tipp Train?
In his pre-match interview, Liam Sheedy appeared to indicate that today’s clash in Ennis would be Tipperary’s biggest challenge, going up against one of their fiercest rivals in a stadium that has become a fortress for Clare in recent times.
Yet, Tipperary proved more than a match for the challenge. The sides were level five times in the opening 10 minutes yet Sheedy’s charges eased into another gear that Clare couldn’t match, especially with the wind at their backs. The movement of the forwards caused chaos as per usual with the McGrath brothers, John and Noel, dominating the game.
Even with one of their best defenders, James Barry, out of the game, the Tipperary backs managed to cope relatively well with the Clare attack, forcing the Banner to rely on Peter Duggan to provide the majority of their scores through placed balls.
However, it was far from a perfect performance from the Premier County. They registered 10 wides in the first half alone, though only three in the second, while their ill-discipline continued to hamper their game. These have been problems blemishing all their performances in Munster so far but should they iron out those wrinkles, they will prove one of the most formidable forces in this year’s championship.
You would imagine with their place at the top of the Munster table safely secured, Sheedy will give some of his U21 stars a run out against Limerick in two weeks’ time and they could add yet another dimension to Tipperary’s play.
Home Advantage Counts For Nothing In Munster
Last year the narrative was that teams came away with the best results from their own grounds and that was why Waterford struggled as they were constantly on the road with Walsh Park unavailable to them.
This year, home advantage has counted for very little, in fact, Tipperary are the only team to have won at home in the Munster championship so far.
During the week Podge Collins admitted that Tipperary would not fear going to Cusack Park given their record at the Ennis grounds and his words proved fateful as the Premier County pushed to quieten the boisterous crowd in the opening period and maintained that throughout.
Meanwhile, the large crowd in Walsh Park could only look on in despair as their side were picked apart by the All Ireland champions for 70 minutes. After all the noise that was made when Waterford got their home games back in Walsh Park, two defeats in the venue is a very poor showing and yet another issue to add to the list.
Clare Have Seven Days To Turn Their Performance Around
Clare are in a precarious situation following today’s loss to Tipperary and all signs are pointing to score difference being a crucial factor at the end of the round-robin series given how Clare, Cork and Limerick currently are. Therefore, today’s tally of 15 wides may end up being a serious hindrance.
There were some questionable decisions both on and off the field by the Clare contingent. Bar Peter Duggan, their forward unit were contributing very little to the scoresheet and yet the 25-year-old was removed around the 55-minute mark, soon followed by John Conlon and Shane O’Donnell which alone gives a feel of the game as a whole.
Their forwards were constantly outnumbered with Padraic Maher playing as a free man for Tipperary and yet there was no change in tactic or approach. Even after half-time, you would have expected them to lift their game with the help of a strong breeze but that never materialised. Tony Kelly did try to drag them back into contention late on but his efforts were in vain.
As previously stated, they now travel to Gaelic Grounds to face a Limerick side who have found their rhythm again following today’s win over Waterford and you would expect that the pitch will be nothing short of a warzone as both teams fight for survival.