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Limerick brilliance, Clare impress, Waterford's challenge and Tipp's struggles

Round two of the Munster hurling championship threw up plenty talking points.

Limerick and Clare celebrated wins this weekend.
Limerick and Clare celebrated wins this weekend.
Image: INPHO

Updated Apr 25th 2022, 12:00 PM

Munster championship weekend results

  • Limerick 0-30 Waterford 2-21
  • Clare 3-21 Tipperary 2-16

*****

1. Clare turn the tables in style

Brian Lohan wasn’t at the helm in early June 2019 when Clare crashed to a 13-point loss to Tipperary, but he was present for the four-point reversal last July, a game that left him seething over a controversial penalty decision at the Gaelic Grounds. That pair of defeats to Tipperary were dispiriting in different ways for Clare, which explains why yesterday will be cherished. Posting 3-21 on the board, emerging from Semple Stadium with an eight-point win, this was an afternoon for the Banner camp to savour.

Tony Kelly was top scorer, his penalty for the third goal was a shot packed with venom, but the story for Clare was the prominent displays elsewhere. Rory Hayes again showing himself as a corner-back of growing renown, John Conlon in towering form at number six. Shane O’Donnell and Peter Duggan both returning in style to Clare’s attack, solid scoring contributions elsewhere from Ryan Taylor, Robin Mounsey and Ian Galvin. As a start to their Munster journey, this was as positive as Lohan could have wished for.

2. Limerick cement status as number one

Whatever doubts might have surrounded Limerick a couple of months ago, have been firmly dispelled now. We’re only a week into the hurling championship, but they have already reached high speed, defeating the two teams they have beaten in the last two All-Ireland finals. They began the championship without Seamus Flanagan and Peter Casey, lost Kyle Hayes after the Cork game and saw Cian Lynch hobbling off early against Waterford on Saturday night.

Yet that series of injury setbacks have not derailed their ambitions. Mike Casey has returned, Cathal O’Neill has emerged, Darragh O’Donovan has soared to a new level. Consider this stat. One Patrickswell star went off through injury in the first-half on Saturday, two other players from that club simply stepped up, Diarmaid Byrnes and Aaron Gillane finishing with a staggering 0-19 between them. Limerick withstood a ferocious Waterford test to win. Can they be stopped this summer?

declan-hannon-and-dan-morrissey-celebrate Limerick's Declan Hannon and Dan Morrissey celebrate. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Tipperary’s struggles deepen

Since the 2019 All-Ireland final triumph, Tipperary have now lost six of their eight subsequent championship games. They defeated Cork in a qualifier in 2020 and Clare in the Munster semi-final in 2021 but that’s as much joy as they have mined from their matches. Yesterday felt like the most damaging of their losses, their second in the space of a week leaves them facing a daunting task to negotiate a path out of Munster this season.

If they could glean some positivity from testing Waterford, it was hard to detect much optimism from their latest performance when facing Clare. Shipping 3-13 in the first half was the root of their problems. Different issues cropped up. They reacted too slowly in defence when Brian Hogan made saves before the first two goals, left far too much space between their half-back and full-back lines for the second goal, and couldn’t get a handle on Peter Duggan’s ball-winning ability.

peter-duggan Clare's Peter Duggan in action against Tipperary. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Up front Tipperary had missed 15 point efforts by the three-quarter mark, 13 wides, one short and one hit the upright. Ger Browne was their best attacker, shooting 1-3 from play when brought on.

It’s a tough mission to salvage their season now, the injuries to James Quigley and John McGrath don’t aid their cause. Meeting Limerick next is an onerous assignment.

4. The challenge for Waterford

A fourth championship meeting with Limerick for Waterford in the Liam Cahill and a fourth defeat. Given Limerick’s absentees, it felt like an opportunity to land a blow and correct a major blemish in their recent record of championship results. Instead Limerick coped to win, looking poised for a comfortable win before Waterford’s late blast of goals.

And yet just as the game reinforced Limerick’s position as number one, it reinforced Waterford’s position as number two. In the championship context it was the closest they have got on the scoreboard to Limerick as it ended in a one-score defeat. After a few games drawing blanks, they stuck two shots to the net past Nickie Quaid. It was the most prosperous outing Dessie Hutchinson has enjoyed against the Limerick defence in rifling over five points.

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dessie-hutchinson Waterford's Dessie Hutchinson. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

They’ll need a better return from some of their forwards, try to change the defensive match-ups earlier to stop Aaron Gillane running amok, hope the injury situation at the back will improve. Waterford got a lot of things right but just not enough to halt the Limerick machine. Can they squeeze out the extra improvement if the teams clash further down the line?

5. Next Sunday in Thurles looks crucial

We only have two previous versions of the Munster round-robin system to examine but it’s striking that in 2018 it was five points from Limerick that secured third place and in 2019, there were three teams locked on four points with scoring difference separating second to fourth.

the-cork-team-stand-for-the-national-anthem The Cork hurlers before they played Limerick. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

So it’s with that in mind the implications for next Sunday’s meeting for Clare and Cork become clearer. Tipperary already have two defeats from two, Cork will join them in that position if they lose that next game. That result would see Limerick joined by Clare at the top on four points, leaving Tipperary and Cork cut adrift, both needing to win their final two games – they play each other on the last day – to have any chance of progressing to the All-Ireland series.

Flip it around and if Cork get a positive outcome from their trip to Semple Stadium, they will jump back into contention once more. It’s the only Munster hurling tie on next weekend as we reach the halfway stage, but already the stakes have been raised.

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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