In won’t go down in the annals as the county’s greatest ever moment but Sunday’s Munster Senior Hurling League success was the perfect start to the 2018 season for John Kiely’s Limerick.
A truly dominant second half display saw the Shannonsiders leave the Gaelic Grounds with a 0-16 to 0-10 victory to end a pre-season that saw them secure wins against Cork, Kerry and Clare.
With the National Hurling League approaching on the horizon, Limerick go into their Division 1B campaign with some momentum.
While Cork were under strength and Limerick will always expect to beat Kerry at home, Sunday’s win was at least eye-catching when you consider the team Clare played.
A forward line that included Tony Kelly, Niall Deasy, Shane O’Donnell and Podge Collins (with cameos from John Conlon and Conor McGrath) were held to just ten points and went over 30 minutes without a score after the Banner made a blistering start to the second half.
During Clare’s scoreless run the home side scored nine points on the trot, ensuring they would not lose the final of the pre-season competition in Munster for the third year in a row.
Speaking after the game, Limerick manager John Kiely said:
“I was happy with that performance, it was our best performance since I got involved with the team in the last year and a half but we had a lot of work to do (but) there’s a lot of talent there, they’re mad for work.”
With an eye on the league opener, the January 28 clash with Laois, the All-Ireland u-21 winning boss added:
“It’s a step in the right direction, it sets us up as good as we would like to be set up before the Allianz League, which I have no doubt there is going to be some tricky fixtures along the way with that as well.”
Limerick played the Munster Senior Hurling League without their considerable Na Piarsaigh contingent as they prepare for the latter stages of the All-Ireland Club Championship.
Other familiar names like Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes, Graeme Mulcahy and Richie McCarthy were also not involved in this final as Kiely looks to build a strong squad ahead of the Munster Championship, which will be played on a round-robin basis in 2018.
The Limerick bainisteoir said:
“There’s a lot of guys not involved today who want to be involved and probably expect to be involved but they are going to have to work extremely hard now – it is all about holding your place.”
Conceding just ten points against such a star-studded attack is something this Limerick defence can take great pride and confidence in. That said, the Treaty camp are all too well aware that these came after Cork put up 1-21 against them and Kerry put up 1-15.
“It was a pleasing aspect of the game but we didn’t keep it to ten points last week (against Kerry).
“You’ve got to do it on a consistent basis. Keeping any team to ten points is a rare thing in hurling but once we are sound defensively and once we’re keeping teams out of the high-teens or into the 20s that’s the goal.”
A good start to 2018 for Limerick and with Galway and Dublin among those they have to overcome to (finally) get promotion back to the top tier in the league, John Kiely is the first to acknowledge that improvements are needed.
“There is lots for us to improve on today – we created no goal chance, we missed a good few shots at goal and we allowed them to get shots off – they went wide today but they won’t go wide every day.”
Limerick host Laois at the Gaelic Grounds in less than fortnights time as they look to get their promotion campaign underway on January 28.
It is another Midlands side in round two as they travel to Offaly before Dublin come to the Gaelic Grounds and their group stage is capped off with trips to Antrim and Galway.