14-man Limerick face tough fight in Galway

Limerick’s Aaron Gillane and Seán Linnane of Galway in a heated exchange this past weekend. Photo: Stephen McCarthy.

LIMERICK manager John Kiely had to think quickly after his side were reduced to 14 players in a National Hurling League draw with Galway at Pearse Stadium.

Only 20-odd minutes into proceedings, referee Thomas Walsh (Waterford) issued a red card to Shane O’Brien, but determined Limerick battled away to earn a commendable 0-17 apiece draw and qualification for the knock-out stages of a competition of which Kiely’s charges are title holders.

A relieved John Kiely said that a sending off is “always going to challenge you what way are you going to set up, how are you going to move things around”.

“We brought Adam English out to the middle of the field. Listen, it worked to a certain extent but ultimately it does throw you off in terms of what you’d like to be set-up as, and it limits your ability to deliver the ball into your inside line when you’ve only got two in there the whole time, and you might only have one inside there.”

The Limerick manager continued that “it just makes things difficult but I think the boys adapted to it well”.

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“It’s a really good reference point for us to have. You never know when you’re going to end up in these situations again, and to have that as a reference point in our background we can always go back to it again.”

The outing in Salthill was notable for the seamless reappearance of captain Declan Hannon, while Diarmaid Byrnes and Adam English nailed some terrific points.

There are injury concerns around Colin Coughlan and Mike Casey.

Next up for Limerick is Saturday’s semi-final with Kilkenny at Cork’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh (4.30pm, to be followed at 7pm by the NFL tie between Cork and Armagh).

The other semi-final, Clare against Tipperary, is listed for O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Sunday (4pm).

Both fixtures are ‘winner on the day’, which could mean extra time and penalties to decide a result.

The final is fixed for a fortnight later.

In a restructured league, next season’s Division 1 contestants are Limerick, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Tipperary, and Wexford.

Each county will have three home and away fixtures.