Category: Archive

GAA Roundup Limerick’s hurlers making believers out of skeptics

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

Limerick 4-11, Waterford 2-14

Could lightning strike twice in the Munster hurling championship? Unsung Limerick had already seen off the challenge of Cork, and now Waterford were waiting to reestablish some order in the province. And for a while during last Sunday’s momentous semifinal at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, it seemed as if Limerick had shot their bolt until they produced one of the most astonishing fightbacks in GAA history.

Trailing by 2-6 to 0-1 after 16 minutes, that epic victory over Cork was looking ever more like a fluke as Limerick struggled to contain a blur of a start by Waterford. For much of extraordinarily one-sided first half, Waterford appeared to be heading for a record win, when slowly, inexorably, Limerick rediscovered the self-belief that had seen them through a fortnight earlier.

The gap was closing but Waterford continued to hold the upper hand, until Limerick finally exploded with three goals in the space of five minutes. James Butler began the charge, and then full-forward Brian Begley hit the net twice in quick succession. Unbelievably — and most of the 41,000 attendance are still scratching their heads — Limerick were back in a first Munster final since 1996.

"I was thinking, ‘Oh, God, no, here we go again,’ but we’d spoken about the Cork game, about being a flash in the pan, and they knew they had to deliver and that’s what they did," said a breathless Eamonn Cregan. According his to charges, the Limerick manager had given all and sundry a halftime "bollicking," and while Cregan mischievously denied any sulphurous exchanges at the break, whatever he imparted clearly worked.

Follow us on social media

Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo

"Look, it was doggedness that won it for us more than anything else," he said. "The willingness to work and to take pain. We’d an awful lot of wides, same as the Cork match, but that game seemed to stand to us because they were out on their feet."

The Limerick players looked destined for the beaches and golf courses of their native county as turbo-charged Waterford piled on the agony in those opening minutes. Even though Paul O’Grady had hit the first score from a free, the white jerseys responded with a burst of vintage attacking hurling. There wasn’t even the customary over-reliance on Tony Browne, Ken McGrath and Paul Flynn, as John Mullane and Seamus Prendergast tore through the Limerick defense.

Prendergast grasped a high ball from the sky and smashed his shot past Timmy Houlihan for the first goal, and then as all six forwards got in on the scoring act, Paul Flynn increased Waterford’s lead with another goal. But the dawn turned out to be false.

"We can hurl and out-hurl the best teams for periods of a game and then sink to lows that you wouldn’t believe it’s the same team," said a chastened manager, Gerald McCarthy, who announced after the game he would step down after five years at the helm.

Kilkenny 3-21, Offaly 0-18

There was an educated body of opinion that Offaly might just spring an early shock in this Leinster hurling semifinal at Croke Park. It was the reigning All-Ireland champions, with their injury problems and their lack of meaningful match practice, facing Offaly, with their perennial ability for one blazing performance. But so much for educated opinion. Kilkenny came, saw and simply destroyed their opponents’ ambitions in masterly style last Sunday.

"Awesome, that’s the only word to describe them," said losing manager Michael Bond. "They’re as physically strong as any Kilkenny team I’ve seen going right back to the ’70s, and they’re also very skillful."

No arguments. Even though there had been a doubt concerning D.J. Carey’s injured ankle, he played a significant role in a 12-point success while Charlie Carter with 0-6 from play was outstanding. Elsewhere, substitute Eddie Brennan caught the eye with 1-2 and Henry Shefflin contributed 1-6, including four frees. The gap was already a massive 12 at the break with Shefflin and Brennan both plundering goals within the space of a minute just before the teams went in.

Whatever hope Offaly had disappeared with those two strikes, and although they tried switching Brian Whelahan to full forward, the Kilkenny defense, superbly marshaled by Eamonn Kennedy and Noel Hickey, was in complete control. As ever, Johnny Dooley stuck to his task with 0-9 including six frees, but the losers’ challenge wasn’t helped by the fact that Johnny Pilkington, who had been involved in a car accident just a couple of days before the game, was not at his best.

Asked how his players managed to sustain the momentum from last season, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody wasn’t mincing his words. "What has this team won? One All-Ireland final. If any serious player is going to be happy to win one All-Ireland, he probably wouldn’t have won one in the first place. Winning is the be all and end all of serious sport, so hunger should be an automatic thing." The opposition have been warned.

Wexford 0-17, Laois 0-10

Despite coming through their semifinal at Croke Park, Wexford can hardly be overconfident about the prospect of facing Kilkenny in the provincial decider. They had to rely mostly on the freetaking talents of Paul Codd to fashion an unconvincing success.

Codd hit 10 points to guide his county to a first final in four years. However, Wexford’s full forward line of Codd, Garry Laffan and Barry Goff hardly ever mounted a serious threat, and while Seamus Dooley excelled at full-back for Laois, the winners ended up with a total of 14 wides.

Without the suspended Niall Rigney, Laois were always going to struggle and they were four points in arrears at the interval. No second-half revival was on the cards despite the best efforts of David Cuddy and James Young in midfield.


Mayo 1-12, Sligo 1-11

Experience? It always counts for something. Sligo were good enough for at least a draw in last Sunday’s Connacht football semifinal at Castlebar, but they lacked the composure and craft to close the deal. Too many missed opportunities left the door open for Mayo who slipped through into the final against Roscommon.

In reality, a thoroughly dominant Sligo side should have been much further ahead than 1-5 to 1-3 at the interval. Sean Davey lobbed in a goal as early as the second minute, and, inspired by contributions of Paul Durcan and Rory Brennan, five of Sligo’s six attackers had all scored in the opening 20 minutes.

However, Peter Ford’s side somehow managed to squander three goal chances as Mayo were on the verge of being overrun. Eamonn O’Hara saw his shot saved by Peter Burke, Dessie Sloyan blasted wide, and then the usually reliable Paul Taylor dragged a penalty attempt to the left of the posts. Despite the one-way traffic, the suspicion that Mayo would take advantage of Sligo’s generosity hang over the ground at halftime.

Manager Pat Holmes brought on Maurice Sheridan for the second half, and he delivered with five points — four from frees — as his side gradually built on Thomas Nallen’s first-half goal which had come completely against the run of play.

Now Pat Fallon and Fergal Costello were getting into the game and another sub, Kieran McDonald, was creating — if not finishing — several chances.

Monaghan 2-10, Fermanagh 0-14

Six years they’d waited, and it was worth the wait as Monaghan registered a first win in the Ulster championship since 1995 by upsetting the hot favorites Fermanagh in last Sunday’s first round game in Enniskillen.

Similarily to Sligo, Monaghan made a fast start with early goals by Ciaran Tavey and Raymond Ronaghan, and by the 20th minute they were eight points clear. But there the similarities ended as the underdogs hung on, weathered the expected second-half surge by Fermanagh, and had enough energy to celebrate a famous two-point victory.

Fermanagh struggled throughout to contain Ronaghan who was a constant threat at full-forward, while they had no one to match the workrate of Gary Meehan. Equally, the unheralded midfield partnership of James McElroy and Jason Hughes, who was making his championship debut after recovering from cancer, were too strong for Paul Brewster and Liam McBarron, while both Rory Gallagher and Stephen Maguire were well marshalled by the winners’ defense.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese