Limerick bask in 'significant' win
By John Harrington
Yesterday’s six-point victory over Tipperary in the first round of the Munster Senior Hurling Championship felt like a real coming of age performance for this young Limerick team.
Two years ago they beaten in Munster by a 14-man Tipperary team, so they’ve come a long way in a short period of time.
Declan Hannon is only 25 but counts as a veteran in this Limerick set-up and has experienced far more bad days than good ones since he made his Championship debut back in 2011.
So, for him, yesterday’s victory and the nature of it over the 2016 All-Ireland Champions felt like a very significant one.
“Yeah it is big,” said Hannon. “The last couple of years have been very, very disappointing for us and very disheartening when you're training...it wasn't for the lack of effort that we just weren't getting the results but it was demoralizing.
“You're going home scratching your head wondering 'why are we training six times a week and not performing?'
“So, this year we said that if we can give performances, we will be there or thereabouts and we will continue to do that.”
A finishing burst of 1-5 in the final 15 minutes with just a single point in reply from Tipperary saw Limerick win comfortably enough in the end, but even before that late charge Limerick manager John Kiely was confident his team were on the way to victory.
“We were just stronger on the day,” said Kiely. “We were physically stronger.
“Fifteen minutes into the second half, I really couldn’t see any other result really. From my perspective, I thought we were getting dominant in all the key areas, particularly at the back."
Kiely wasn’t surprised that his team produced such an emphatic performance on the day because the signs had been there they were perfectly primed for the challenge.
“We were very composed and calm all week,” he said. “There was no panic. We only played the one challenge game over the past three weeks - we had our own in-house games.
“I knew the thing was shaping up well. The lads going back to the clubs for the two weeks was key. We took a break from each other. It gave them a chance to switch off.
“And in this type of competition you need time to switch off..get away from the group, get away from us and come back in fresh and they have done that.
“There's a great sense of calmness and focus there for the last few weeks and it was reflected in our performance there in the last quarter of an hour. Lads were very calm at the back.
“Even though there was a few moments where Tipp were trying to push through and get that goal. We coped with that really, really well. Showed a lot of composure.
“We worked the ball forward then, created three or four scoring chances.
“Could have tagged on three of four points. It didn’t happen but I was very happy with the manner in which we closed out the game.”
A win like yesterday’s should give this young Limerick team even more confidence, and Kiely is hopeful they can continue to go from strength to strength throughout the remainder of their Championship campaign.
“It's (the win) is significant for a number of factors,” he said.
“From my perspective, number one, we haven't won a championship match in a couple of years and we needed to win a championship match.
“This is our first championship win with this group. That's a significant milestone in itself. The challenge is there now to build on that.
“The hunger is definitely there within this group. We have three games left in the 'round robin' - let's go and see what we can do with those games.”