REACHING a National League hurling final shouldn’t be so ridiculously easy. Galway, without having to do much out of the ordinary, largely controlled this high-stakes clash with a Limerick team which was unusually passive.
Even with home advantage at the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday, together with having the motivation of trying to turn the tables on the Tribesmen for a Division 1B group defeat at the same venue three weeks earlier, the Shannonsiders were unable to muster the kind of sustained fire and aggression we normally associate with them.
In the end, Galway had an unflattering ten points to spare as they possessed virtually too much of everything for John Kiely’s disappointing charges. The manner in which Limerick fell into a hole after Conor Cooney’s smartly-taken second-half goal must have alarmed their supporters of the crowd of just over 9,500.
Such was Limerick’s poverty at times, it prevents us from heaping too many garlands in Galway’s direction despite an utterly professional performance, highlighted by the full-forward line of Conor Whelan, Cathal Mannion and Cooney going to town.
This trio contributed an impressive 1-10 from play between and the Limerick last line of defence, for all its tenacity, just couldn’t stop the bleeding. But the hosts had big problems at the other end of the field as well, with three of their starting forwards failing to score, while the other three, free-taker Shane Dowling, David Dempsey and the roving Cian Lynch, just managed one point each
We had anticipated a fired-up Limerick as they chased a first league title since 1997, but they never really rose to the challenge. Granted, the early loss of defender Declan Hannon through injury didn’t help – nor did half-back colleague Seamus Hickey having to limp from the action early in the second half – but overall Galway were the much sharper, structured and higher quality team.
Naturally, David Burke and his team-mates will face a sharp rise in class when the return to the Gaelic Grounds for Sunday’s league final against All-Ireland champions Tipperary, but Galway have regrouped well after their surprise early home loss to Wexford earlier in their campaign, even if a couple of positions in the half-forward-line remain up for grabs.
Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune.