Limerick and Waterford serve up a Munster championship thrill as the All-Ireland champions fend off the late surge


There was a tense ending, perhaps more than it should have been, when Nickie Quaid came out with the ball when the final whistle blew at the Gaelic Grounds, and the long-awaited Limerick-Waterford clash in the second turned into a gripping match-half.

Imerick had established a commanding lead in the last ten minutes as two goals from Waterford reduced the gap to a single point. But they showed the composure of champions to see it home.

It was important for Waterford to take some of that with them in the event of defeat, having lost the 2020 All-Ireland final by 11 points and last year’s semi-final by an identical margin. They will take solace in the way they fought back when the game seemed to have been taken from them. A run of seven unanswered points from Limerick saw them accelerate in the clear direction with Aaron Gillane rampant.

But commanding leads don’t really exist in slingshots, do they? Gillane struck his seventh in a row and his 13th overall, six from the game, in the 62nd minute to leave Limerick 28-0, 21-0. They had all the momentum and breeze, players like Tom Morrissey and Darragh O’Donovan propelling into the match. But then they had to dig deep into their character when their web trembled twice in two minutes.

First, Stephen Bennett struck a free-kick from 20 yards and two minutes later he helped set up the second goal with a superb stick pass to Calum Lyons, who fed Jack Prendergast. He shot low past Quaid. Waterford had the opportunity to equalize and Limerick didn’t need a second invitation. Pat Ryan got a good result from the game and Diarmaid Byrnes landed a free, his fifth of the night, on top of the six he scored against Cork.

Limerick’s win is all the more commendable as they had already lost Cian Lynch to injury in the 9th minute, although the loss of Iarlaith Daly seemed to have a bigger impact on Waterford as he had done good policing until Gillane reached the point he was in left the field in the 29th minute.

Limerick held the smallest lead at the break, 0-14 to 0-13. In added time, Gillane shot over his seventh point of the half to give them the lead for the first time in the game. After Daly walked out of Limerick, the forward scored three points from Conor Gleeson’s play-off and a free, which he himself won, from there by half-time.

In the second half, Conor Prunty, who started on Gearoid Hegarty, was switched to Gillane but the Limerick forward was no easier to contain.

Waterford led for most of the first half and had a five-point lead when Calum Lyons scored his third point from play in the 17th minute, his second in a row after Waterford won the puck from Limerick. They mixed it up well physically but Hegarty was still influential despite ending the first half with just a point from the game, winning Frees and feeling heavy for not winning more.

Referee Sean Stack did not endear himself to the home crowd, who vastly outnumbered Waterford, with a series of decisions against the All Ireland champions, particularly over carrying over and throwing balls.

Limerick already had to test their squad strength in the Championship, starting in the full attacking line without the long-absent Peter Casey and Seamus Flanagan. The loss of Kyle Hayes added to that injury list. They brought in Conor Boylan in Hayes’ absence for his first championship start. It was the first time Hayes had not started since his championship debut in 2017. Boylan struggled to assert himself.

Waterford’s starting line-up had a few late changes. Austin Gleeson and Iarlaith Daly, both coming on to replace Tipperary, came on late on for Neil Montgomery and Carthach Daly. Cian Lynch’s departure gave Cathal O’Neill a chance and he had scored within 60 seconds of arriving on the field and struck another later at half-time. O’Neill finished with three but also hit four wides.

Waterford had just one scoring chance in the first half when Mikey Kiely blocked a shot from Barry Nash before being intercepted by a typically solid Limerick defense. Kiely got the opportunity to win the ball after good work from Jack Fagan when he seemed lost.

Stephen Bennett scored five points in the first half but did not report from the game for the second game in a week, while Gleeson’s five-point total included a striking touchline hit from 55 yards. He also had a shot destined for the top corner of the net which was brilliantly stopped by Mike Casey in the second half.

Limerick came out after the break and went up four points, but Waterford brought them back with Desie Hutchinson a prominent figure to finish the game on five points.

Scorers: Limerick – A Gillane 0-13 (7fs); D. Byrnes 0-6 (5fs); C O’Neill 0-3;, G Hegarty, D O’Donovan, T Morrissey 0-2 each; P Ryan, D Reidy each 0-1. Waterford – Stephen Bennett 1-7 (1-6 fs, 0-1 65); A Gleeson 0-5 (3fs, 1sl); D. Hutchison 0-5; CLyons 0-3; J Prendergast 1-0; P Curran 0-1.

Limerick: N Quaid; B. Nash, M. Casey, S. Finn; D Byrnes, D Hannon, D Morrissey; D O’Donovan, W O’Donoghue; G Hegarty, C Lynch, T Morrissey; G Mulachy, A Gillane, C Boylan.

Subs: C O’Neill for Lynch (inj 9); D Reidy for Boylan (51); Ryan for Mulcahy (57).

Waterford: S O’Brien; Gleeson C, Daly I, McNulty S; J Fagan, T De Burca, C Prunty; D Lyons, C Lyons; J Prendergast, P Curran, A Gleeson; Stephen Bennett, M ​​Kiely, D Hutchinson.

Subs: P Hogan for I Daly (inj 29); J Barron for D Lyons (50); N. Montgomery for Curran (67); C. Daly for de Burca (68); P Mahony for Kiely (72).

Referee: S Stack (Dublin).

Number of visitors: 27,488. Limerick and Waterford serve up a Munster championship thrill as the All-Ireland champions fend off the late surge

Fry Electronics Team

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