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Jackie Tyrell may not think they will lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup come August, but Limerick proved just why they are the best team in the country currently with a resounding 2-18 to 0-15 win over Kilkenny in Nowlan Park this afternoon.
While it is still only February, portions of Limerick’s play, in particular, the work-rate of their forwards, will worry their impending opposition.
Kyle Hayes roared into the game in the second-half while Aaron Gillane ran Paul Murphy ragged, racking up nine points.
However, the turning point of this game came in the dying minutes of the first half as Limerick registered 2-3 without response, while Kilkenny, who had been neck-in-neck with the Treaty men until that point, hit three wides in a period that summed up their overall performance. Interestingly, 2-3 was the margin by which Limerick won the game.
In part four of our Allianz Deep-Dive series, we take a look at those key minutes before half-time that ultimately decided this contest.
31.29 – Robbie Hanley point
Kilkenny 0-7 – Limerick 0-7
This move started when Richie English cleverly flicked the ball away from Billy Ryan before spotting Kyle Hayes who had drifted back to the half-back line as he did so often throughout the game. Aaron Gillane was unable to secure possession with his first touch, leading to a scrum from which Padraig Walsh emerged with the ball.
Eager to get the ball out of danger, Walsh launched it into the air with no real direction or conviction and it was easily gathered by Byrnes who was unmarked in midfield. Limerick’s use of space was clinical throughout the game and with James Maher forced to go out the field to meet Byrnes, it created the space for Hanley to easily take the pass and shoot from the wing with comfort.
33.02 – Shane Dowling goal
Kilkenny 0-7 Limerick 0-8
Kyle Hayes is first to react to Nickie Quaid’s puckout but his attempted pass along the ground is blocked down and is desperately swung away by Walsh, again without any real aim. It is easily collected by Paddy O’Loughlin who finds himself with acres of space on the wing.
He delivers a high ball to his full-forward line and it’s three against three, with a fourth defender racing back to defend the square. Graeme Mulcahy, Limerick’s smallest forward, rises high and bats the ball down to the awaiting Gillane, who has three Kilkenny men around him. Meanwhile, Shane Dowling runs around the outside, unnoticed.
Gillane gathers possession and turns towards goal, sucking in the defence while Mulcahy hangs back. Gillane sidesteps Tommy Walsh leaving him room to give the pass out to Dowling who is completely open. The Na Piarsaigh man has left himself with a tight angle to manoeuver but he is almost impossible to stop in those instances and he hit it high on Eoin Murphy’s near side, leaving him with little chance of getting his hurley across to make the save.
33.37 – Conor Boylan goal
Kilkenny 0-7 Limerick 1-8
The next move happened so quickly that both those in the stadium and watching at home would be forgiven for missing it. Again, it came from the sheer work-rate and pack mentality of the Limerick forwards.
It’s not often that Eoin Murphy makes poor decisions but his short puckout to Tommy Walsh was a rare one. The Tullaroan man had barely controlled the ball when he was set upon by two Limerick forwards, Gillane and Barry Murphy. He attempted the short hand pass to Conor Delaney but the move was well read by Mulcahy who batted the ball into space.
It took the Kilmallock man three attempts to rise the ball but Delaney’s hesitation to engage, and possibly foul, allowed him time. Mulcahy ran into space and both Delaney and Paddy Deegan followed him, leaving Conor Boylan open.
Boylan ran into the space just vacated by Mulcahy and with two defenders in front of him, he took his shot from outside the square, blasting it into the top corner, just 35 seconds after Dowling’s goal.
35.18 – Diarmuid Byrnes point
Kilkenny 0-7 Limerick 2-8
Limerick’s movement throughout the field was impressive as was their ability to pick out the player in the best position. In previous years, it was their tendency to launch high, aimless balls into their forward line, whereas now they concentrate on working the ball up from the back.
In the build-up to the next score, Dan Morrissey, wearing No. 6 in the absence of Declan Hannon, emerged from a pile up with the ball, and hit a short pass to O’Loughlin who quickly dispatched it to his midfielder, Darragh O’Donovan. However, Morrissey hadn’t stopped there and made himself available to O’Donovan again before being fouled by Martin Keoghan.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) February 17, 2019
By this stage in the game, Diarmuid Byrnes had sent three attempts wide. Some might have dropped the head or shown reluctance to step up to the point but the Limerick management kept faith with the Patrickswell man and from inside his own 65, the LIT student stepped up and drove the ball between the posts. A sure sign of Limerick’s confidence as the half entered injury time.
36.58 – Aaron Gillane point
Kilkenny 0-7 Limerick 2-9
Padraig Walsh hit Kilkenny’s sixth wide of the game but the Tullaroan man did well to track back to the far side of the pitch to collect Nickie Quaid’s resulting puckout which Gillane was not able to control in the greasy conditions. Walsh took Gillane’s challenge well but he had less than two seconds on the ball before he found himself surrounded by three Limerick forwards, Gillane, Hayes and Mulcahy who were careful not to foul.
Walsh managed to release the ball in the direction of the nearest black and amber jersey but Enda Morrissey was unable to prevent the subsequent flick from going out over the sideline.
As O’Donovan set up the sideline cut, every forward in the area was marked. However, the Doon man quickly spotted the run of Dowling who skilfully kept it in play by flicking it behind him back to O’Donovan.
Meanwhile, Gillane had drifted off his marker and provided an option for O’Donovan which he took. Gillane took one step closer to the sideline to create space for himself and hit the point off his right despite the attention of James Maher.
Half-time score: Kilkenny 0-7 Limerick 2-10
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves but John Kiely must be very pleased with his team’s current standing. They are through to the Allianz League quarter-finals with three wins from three and have unearthed some new talent in the likes of Conor Boylan, while Tom Condon has rediscovered his best form, landing a monster point from deep inside his own half today.
Limerick started this game without Declan Hannon, Cian Lynch, Seamus Flanagan, Tom Morrissey and Gearoid Hegarty and while their play looked sloppy at times, they were never phased.
Flanagan said before the League that the only way a team could beat Limerick is by outworking them and he maintained that no team is capable of doing so. He has yet to be proved wrong.