A mammoth win for Limerick from being eight points down at half-time, earning promotion to Division 1A for the first time in eight years. It was quite a performance and not one we’ve seen from the Shannonsiders for quite some time.
It stamps a lot of legitimacy on all the hype and expectation surrounding their current crop of players after a series of underage wins. Credit too to John Kiely, who blooded youth after last year’s All-Ireland U21 success and gave the ultra talented Aaron Gillane freedom of the parks this spring. Moving Cian Lynch back to midfield has been a masterstroke, letting him deploy his creative magic from further back the field to allow their plethora of young forwards to get their chances to shine.
And they sure took them yesterday. Seamus Flanagan is still under 21 and scored five points from play. Kyle Hayes, also under 21, made his debut for the season and scored a massively important goal. Tom Morrissey, the U-21 captain from last year, is emerging as a fantastic centre forward.
And this is all with their crew from Na Piarsaigh, who are in the All-Ireland final next week.
This guy deserves a special mention. 4-36 in the league and an absolute laser from frees, Gillane has been the forward spark Limerick have been missing over the years.
Limerick already had a free taking hotpot in Shane Dowling – one of those currently with Na Piarsaigh. If he does come back to the starting fold – there’s no guarantee he will – John Kiely has two fantastic free takers and will be able to take the pressure of one of them and let them do their hurling.
Particularly their strength in depth, which is suddenly starting to come to the fore this spring. They’ve topped Division 1A with plenty of experimentation from game to game, and with some big names missing in action too.
The emergence of Jason Forde as a deadly full forward will give Michael Ryan a headache going into the summer, about how to juggle both the Silvermines man and the injured Seamus Callanan. That’s not to mention the returns of John O’Dwyer, Dan McCormack and possibly Niall O’Meara to his attacking fold. And don’t forget Noel McGrath, who hasn’t even come off the bench in the last two games.
They’ve executed a near-perfect League, with more games to go to further blood the young up-and-comers ahead of what’s bound to be an arduous Munster championship campaign.
To come down to Offaly and grab their first win of the campaign on the final weekend of the division games shows a fair bit of bite. They now welcome Laois to Cushendall in the relegation play-off and will fancy their chances of reversing the result from O’Moore Park back in February.
Unbeaten and into a Division 2 final against Carlow, the winner of which gains promotion to Division 1B. The fact they proved their worth against all teams and have to prove it once more is questionable fixture making once again, but fair play to Westmeath – they took no prisoners against Kerry on home turf to seal Division 2 with a 1-20 to 0-16 win against Kerry.
Football Division 2
Two games left and still all to play for between Cavan, Roscommon, Tipperary, Cork, Clare and Down. Whoever comes out on top after all is said and done may struggle to swim in Division 1, but they’ll have definitely earned it out of this even and competitive group.
To come from Munster championship success in 2017 to bottom of Division 1A is an unfortunate slip for Cork. They mustered just one win in the league – on the opening night against Kilkenny. They’ve already lost to Waterford, who will fancy their chances of repeating that feat when the two meet in the relegation decider.
You’d have to wonder if Cork have come out the worst of the league campaign going into the new Munster format. They have little teams haven’t seen already, still with an over-reliance on Patrick Horgan to keep them in games. It’s very hard to see them getting near a Munster defence this summer.
As disgusting a stroke you’re ever likely to see on a hurling field on Limerick’s Barry Murphy yesterday.
What a difference a few weeks make. In our first installment of this column, Offaly were top dogs after a victory that appeared to knell the beginning of a new era in Offaly hurling. Over six weeks later and they’re losing to Antrim on home turf.
The fact that Offaly, with two wins in Division 1B, must now go on and play Kilkenny, with three wins in 1A, is more than enough reason to scrap the quarter-final round of the league – especially with the increased amount of games in the provincial tournaments.
In fact, why not scrap the knockout rounds altogether and crown Tipperary and Limerick the winners of their respective divisions and leave it at that? Games for the sake of games, in modern GAA, is not doing the calendar any favours whilst we deal with snow, college competitions, club hurling and needless pre-season tournaments in January.
Eleven points in Croke Park. It wasn’t their greatest performance in HQ and underlined how far the new look Kerry have to go to match the Goliath in Dublin football.