LIMERICK’S weekend defeat to Cork has John Kiely’s team in need of quick points to relaunch their bid to emerge as Division 1A representatives in an Allianz National Hurling League decider that is pencilled-in for the opening weekend of April.
On Leeside, the All-Ireland and Munster champions surrendered an eight-point interval advantage in a 2-17 to 0-22 loss.
Meanwhile Limerick’s next challengers Clare were runaway winners over Westmeath at Cusack Park, Ennis on Sunday last.
The leakage of two goals at the outset of the new-half will have been a cause of concern for the management setup of Kiely, Paul Kinnerk, Donal O’Grady, Alan Cunningham, and Aonghus O’Brien.
Said O’Grady: “It was just a bad start to the second half, because you’d be hoping to kill teams off in the first ten minutes and we didn’t and Cork can score from many different places and angles, and they did.”
The contest was notable for the return to action after a lengthy injury layoff of Cian Lynch, who was enthusiastically welcomed into the fray by the strong Limerick support in an attendance of close on 20,000.
It was shameful, however, on the part of sections of the home crowd who booed his introduction.
One possible reason for this was that Limerick kept Pat Ryan’s side waiting a few additional minutes after half-time, for which Kiely admitted full responsibility.
He explained: “We got our half-time clock wrong today. That was not an intentional thing to stay off the field for 19 minutes. It was my mistake. I interpreted the information that was available to me incorrectly. That shouldn’t have happened. It was my fault, but not intentional under any circumstance at all.”
On the Lynch situation, Irish Examiner columnist and two-time All-Ireland winning Clare captain Anthony Daly commented that “nobody wants to hear booing or jeering at a GAA match. We’re not soccer. It’s not in our DNA – it shouldn’t be – so it was surprising to hear some of the mob spewing some venom when Cian came on.”
With only the top team from each of the two groupings to qualify for the Allianz National Hurling League Final, Limerick now face a must-win contest against next-door neighbours Clare at the TUS Gaelic Grounds next Saturday (throw-in 7pm).
Such is the attractiveness of the fixture, it’s likely to attract a crowd of upwards on 20,000.
Inspirational captain Declan Hannon will be out of action for the next few weeks after he was stitched after sustaining a finger cut on Saturday.
Cork are the new 10/3 favourites with BoyleSports to win out the league, followed in the betting by Limerick and Tipperary, both at 4/1.