Reigning All-Ireland champions Limerick sent out a statement of intent on Saturday evening in their comprehensive 1-21 to 1-14 victory over Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds.
After an opening weekend victory over Wexford, Limerick
returned home to almost 9,000 fans where they set out their stall as defending
In December, Liam Sheedy’s Tipperary inflicted defeat on
Limerick in their first game back at the Gaelic Grounds since their All-Ireland
triumph in August.
And when Michael
Breen opened the scoring for Tipp inside the opening minute on Saturday, it
seemed like this game could take a similar path.
However, after a sluggish opening half, John Kiely’s charges
exploded into life in the second half as Tipperary proved no match for their skill
and conditioning despite having far more of a pre-season than Limerick.
Limerick outscored their opponents 0-13 to 0-5 in the second half and no one epitomised Limerick’s performance more than Diarmaid Byrnes who was imperious from wing back landing four points and was deservedly named Man of the Match.
Byrne’s performance almost undermined the debut of Conor Boylan
who was excellent on his first start in the green of Limerick.
The Na Piarsaigh man is no stranger to big games having appeared in All-Ireland finals with his club, yet his composure stood out.
Named at No.12 , Boylan began beside Tom Morrissey and Gearoid Hegarty, with Young Hurler of the Year, Kyle Hayes the only absentee from the All-Ireland winning half forward line.
The biggest compliment you could pay to Boylan was Hayes’
absence in the line was not felt with the young forward’s performance eerily reminiscent
of that of the Kildimo-Pallaskenry starlet.
Such is the extent of the quality of the squad, many of last
years starting XV were rested to no ill effects. Colin Ryan has began both games
in midfield, filling in for current Hurler of the Year, Cian Lynch on Saturday and
proving brilliant once again.
Last week Peter Casey filled the void left by Graham Mulcahy
and excelled while on his introduction on Saturday further demonstrated his
class with a point from play.
The ability for John Kiely to replace like for like is
unmatched in Ireland and such is the quality of the replacements, there is no
room for complacency in the starting XV with only a handful guaranteed of a
starting berth in the championship barring injuries.
Special praise must be reserved for Tom Condon who was immense
in the Gaelic Grounds.
A veteran of the side, Condon was forced to spend much of
the last year on the bench as the triumvirate of Sean Finn, Mike Casey and
Richie English held down the full back line.
After a reckless red card in Cusack Park, Condon recovered
from the setback to secure the All-Ireland for Limerick with his late catch in
Croke Park as Galway closed in.
While his long time compatriots Seamus Hickey (Retired) and
Richie McCarthy (Injured) were absent on Saturday, Condon once again proved his
worth with a dominant display.
In such a young squad, Condon’s value was never so evident than in the Gaelic Grounds.
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