WHATEVER about the rights or wrongs, the issues or the personalities, there can be no disguising the reality that what has happened to Limerick hurling is a disaster for the county, a blot on the wider game and a worry for Croke Park.
Dropping to Division 2 was always a high probability once the players versus manager dispute wasn’t sorted out before the start of the League, but the manner in which Limerick were sent hurtling down the relegation tunnel inParnell Park yesterday was distressing for people who love the game.
Dublin took no pleasure in demolishing outclassed opponents, but business is business, and Anthony Daly had his players wound up to near-championship pace for a game where the losers were facing relegation. Despite some brave performances earlier in the League, including running Offaly to a single point, Limerick were always likely to struggle against Dublin, but the extent of the chasm between the teams couldn’t have been anticipated.
This was seniors against juniors as Dublin hit their demoralised opponents for 0-20 in the first half and 6-10 in the second half. All six goals came in the final 18 minutes after Paudie McNamara, Limerick’s best performer, bounced a free to the Dublin net in the 48th minute. He followed up with a pointed free after having had a penalty saved, but it was the end of Limerick’s defiance as Dublin outscored them by 6-4 to 1-1 from there to the finish.
Limerick‘s many problems were increased to unbearable levels in the 44th minute when James O’Brien was sent off on a straight red card. In truth, it’s unlikely that Limerick would have won with 18 players, but once they lost O’Brien, it enabled Dublin to head for the goal rush.
Dublin had time and space to size up and deliver their passes and once David O’Callaghan got in for their first goal in the 52nd minute, Limerick completely fell apart. Four Limerick defenders were replaced in the course of a game which was well beyond their reach by half-time, when they trailed by 0-20 to 0-8.
Alan McCrabbe, David O’Callaghan, Liam Rushe and Paul Ryan led the scoring rout; midfielders John McCaffrey and Shane Durkin were well on top, while Joe Boland, Stephen Hiney, Ronan Fallon and goalkeeper Gary Maguire were consistently efficient.
Limerick stayed in touch for the opening 15 minutes but were swept aside from there on in what was the worst possible send-off before they head into championship preparations.
Justin McCarthy strode past the waiting media afterwards, declining to comment on a wipe-out where the range of Limerick’s difficulties was every bit as extensive as the losing margin suggests.
Anthony Daly certainly wasn’t gloating at the opposition’s misery and while he was pleased to have secured the points which keep Dublin in Division 1, he knows that their win wasn’t recorded against the ‘real’ Limerick.
“A Limerick problem needs a Limerick solution. It’s not my business but it’s sad to see a Limerick team beaten like that,” he said.
He felt all along that Dublin would have too much in reserve for Limerick and was surprised to note some comments last week which raised question-marks against Dublin.
“A few lads in the media tried to build it up — it seems they’d like to see us fall flat on our faces for various reasons. Maybe some people have their own agenda. From our perspective, it’s a case of job done,” said Daly.
Dublin won’t be reading too much into this win but it was still a positive way to sign off. Daly was in the happy position of being able to introduce three subs at the same time in the 48th minute, two of whom (Shane Ryan and John Kelly) scored goals. It was day of mixed emotions for Dublin wing-back Maurice O’Brien, a native of Limerick and a former double All-Ireland U-21 medal-winner. He is saddened by the saga which has unfolded in Limerick this year and feels for some of his former colleagues.
“I know a lot of the lads very well and feel a certain amount of sympathy for them. A lot of them have been unfairly labelled as undisciplined. Hopefully, the top players will be back in the county jersey before long,” he said.
That’s also the fervent wish of Limerick hurling supporters, although it now seems as if there’s no way anything can be retrieved from this year.
Limerick play Cork or Tipperary in the Munster semi-final in June and, as Daly pointed out, that’s going to be some challenge. The truth is that it’s one for which Limerick simply aren’t equipped, so irrespective of how hard they try, a defeat of yesterday’s proportions awaits them. That is, of course, unless the stand-off between most of the 2009 panel and the management can be sorted out, something which seems highly unlikely at this late stage.
Limerick were hit for a total of 17-146 in seven League games which they lost by an average of almost 13 points. Yesterday’s humiliation also meant that, coupled with the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Tipperary, Limerick’s last two visits to Dublin have seen them beaten by a combined margin of 55 points.
Any wonder McCarthy had nothing to say as he headed for a long, depressing journey back to Limerick?
Scorers — Dublin: A McCrabbe 0-10 (8f), D O’Callaghan 2-3, L Rushe 1-4, P Ryan 1-3 (1f), S Lambert 0-4, J Kelly 1-1, S Ryan 1-0, P Kelly 0-3, J McCaffrey, J Boland 0-1 each. Limerick: P McNamara 1-7 (1-5f, 1 ’65), G Mulcahy 1-1, R McKeogh 0-2, J O’Brien 0-1.
Dublin — G Maguire; N Corcoran, S Hiney, O Gough; J Boland, R Fallon, M O’Brien; J McCaffrey, S Durkin; S Lambert, P Kelly, P Ryan; D O’Callaghan, L Rushe, A McCrabbe. Subs: R Treanor for Gough (h/t), J Kelly for P Kelly (48), P Carton for McCrabbe (48), S Ryan for McCaffrey (48), D O’Dwyer for O’Callaghan (56).
Limerick — T Flynn; D Lynch, D Kenny, S O’Neill; N Quaid, A Brennan, L O’Dwyer; B O’Sullivan, S O’Riordan; P Browne, D Breen, J O’Brien; G Mulcahy, P McNamara, R McKeogh. Subs: T O’Brien for Quaid (26), S Herlihy for Browne (h/t), C Hayes for Kenny (58), K O’Rourke for Lynch (58), D Madden for Brennan (60).
Ref — M Wadding (Waterford).
– Martin Breheny–Irish Independent