Allianz HL D1: Limerick and Tipperary share the spoils

Allianz Hurling League Division 1


By John Harrington at the LIT Gaelic Grounds

There was something for everyone to take home from this Allianz Hurling League Division 1 draw between Limerick and Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds this evening.

It may niggle Liam Sheedy that his Tipp team didn’t hold on for the win that looked very possible at the three-quarters stage, but they could very easily have lost it by the end.

Overall, he’ll be pleased by the attitude his players showed, the way they got in Limerick’s grille and stuck a few wrenches in the gears of a machine that rolled over everyone last year.

The performance of young wing-back Bryan O'Meara who seems to have a nice combination of grit and skill was another major posititive to take away from the day.

As for John Kiely, he won’t have been best pleased with some elements of his team’s performance. But, more than anything, he’ll be quietly satisfied they showed the character to claw their way back into a match that seemed to be going away from them and further extend their unbeaten sequence.

The sight of Adrian Breen taking three points off Cathal Barrett will have been a major plus too for a man who is always stoking the embers of competition in his panel.

Considering the lack of preparation both teams had for this match after a long period of lock-down, this was a very decent hit-out.

There was the inevitable ring-rust with some ropey first touches here and overcooked passes there, but overall there was a very good intensity to the contest.

This was despite the flow of the game being interrupted by a high free-count, as referee Colm Lyons implemented the new advantage rule which basically adjudges a free to be the best advantage unless the team in possession have a decent goal chance.

It’s a law that will certainly suit Tipperary as long as they can rely on Jason Forde to take their frees, because he doesn’t miss too many.

12 of the 14 points he scored in this match came from placed balls, 11 frees and one ’65, and you’d back him to score more often than not within an 80-yard range.

Limerick will surely reflect they coughed up some cheap frees, but more often than not Tipperary earned them the hard way by running aggressively at the green and white striped defence.

It took them a little while to find their stride, though, because in the first quarter it was the All-Ireland Champions who were the more cohesive outfit, thanks in no small part to the focal point Seamus Flanagan provided in attack.

Flanagan really hit form for Limerick in the latter stages of their All-Ireland winning campaign last year and from the start of this match he showed he was ready to pick up where he left off.

His movement was a joy to watch as his diagonal runs took him into space where his team-mates could pick him out with angled passes.

There’s not much you can do as a defender when an athlete like Flanagan is running onto those deliveries and is in red-hot shooting form, and Tipp full-back Brian McGrath was struggling to contain the Feohanagh man.

Flanagan hit two really classy points from play in the first ten minutes that pushed them 0-5 to 0-3 ahead and then then stretched that advantage to three points when David Reidy hit a nice score on the run.

By this stage of the match Limerick were fairly comfortably on top. They were moving the ball through the lines more fluently than Tipperary could, and their defenders were giving their opponents very little room for manoeuvre.

The flow of the game changed in the second quarter, though. Tipperary’s half-back line of Ronan Maher, Seamus Kennedy, and Bryan O’Meara really thundered into the match, and the hard work of others like Dan McCormack and Michael Breen saw them begin to dominate the middle third.

Dan McCormack of Tipperary is tackled by Limerick players, from left, Darragh O'Donovan, David Reidy, David Dempsey, Tom Morrisey and Conor Boylan during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A Round 1 match between Limerick and Tipperary at LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. 
Dan McCormack of Tipperary is tackled by Limerick players, from left, Darragh O'Donovan, David Reidy, David Dempsey, Tom Morrisey and Conor Boylan during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A Round 1 match between Limerick and Tipperary at LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. 

With a better quality of ball now making its way into the Tipperary attack, the Limerick defenders suddenly weren’t looking so sure-footed.

Jason Forde hit a couple of sweet points from play, and his free-taking was deadly accurate too with Limerick forced to foul with Tipperary edging the possession stats.

Two frees in quick success by Forde had Tipperary ahead, 0-10 to 0-8, by the 26th minute, and they then created the first genuine goal-scoring opportunity of the game when Jake Morris picked up the ball 21 yards out.

He’s normally a lethal finisher from that range, so he’ll be disappointed his well struck shot was too close to Nickie Quaid with the Limerick custodian saving well.

The intensity of the match was ratcheting up now as Limerick reasserted themselves and began to meet Tipperary’s fire with a bit more heat of their own.

Points from William O’Donoghue, Flanagan, and the lively Adrian Breen were the product of this improvement, and by the time the half-time whistle blew the sides were level at 0-12 apiece.

Tipperary wrested back control again in the third quarter, thanks mainly to grunt rather than any great guile.

That was impressive in itself, though, because we’re not used to teams taking on Limerick in a physical battle and edging the contest for large parts.

Dan McCormack epitomised Tipperary’s attitude. Time and again he made himself strong over the ball to win it, and then consistently won frees thanks to his brawny ability to burst through extended arms and invite the tackler to pull him back.

Six converted frees and one ’65 from Forde had Tipperary ahead 0-19 to 0-14 by the 54th minute, which was a more than decent advantage considering Limerick never looked like scoring a goal.

Recognising that the game was in danger of drifting away from his team, John Kiely began to unload a bench stacked with talent.

Peter Casey and Cian Lynch were the first two sent into the fray and both played big roles in turning the momentum back in Limerick’s favour.

Casey scored two points from play and laid off some good ball too, while Lynch was the key cog when Limerick’s short-passing game began to whirr more smoothly in the final quarter.

Gearoid Hegarty was another sub who made a decisive impact. He didn’t score, but he won a lot of ball and used it cleverly to launch short-passing moves from the middle third.

Tipperary tried to counteract Limerick’s renewed energy by bringing on some subs of their own, but none of them made anything like the same impact that Limerick’s replacements did.

Diarmaid Byrnes and Kyle Hayes also thundered into the match and their bursts out of defence consistently put their team on the front foot and Tipperary on the back-foot.

The increasing pressure quickly told, with Limerick scoring five points in a ten-minute burst to draw level at 0-19 apiece.

Jason Forde briefly nudged his team back into the lead with another converted free, but David Reidy replied in kind with one of his own to level it up again as the game ticked into injury-time.

Limerick had a couple of chances to win it with Tom Morrissey shooting wide from long range and then Byrnes coming up short with a free from even further out.

Tipp were hanging on by their fingernails for a finish, but, all in all, the draw was the fairest result on the day.

Scorers for Limerick: David Reidy 0-8 (6f), Seamus Flanagan 0-4, Adrian Breen 0-3, Peter Casey 0-2, William O’Donoghue 0-1, Darragh O’Donovan 0-1, Diarmaid Byrnes 0-1 (f).

Scorers for Tipperary: Jason Forde 0-14 (11f, 1 ’65), Ronan Maher 0-2 (1f), Niall O’Meara 0-1, Dan McCormack 0-1, Willie Connors 0-1, Michael Breen 0-1.

LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid; Aaron Costello, Sean Finn, Richie English; Diarmaid Byrnes, Kyle Hayes, Barry Nash; William O’Donoghue, Darragh O’Donovan; Tom Morrissey, David Reidy, Conor Boylan; Adrian Breen, Seamus Flanagan, David Dempsey. Subs: Peter Casey for David Dempsey, Cian Lynch for Darragh O’Donovan (both 45), Gearoid Hegarty for Conor Boylan (55), Darren O’Connell for Adrian Breen (60), Brian O’Grady for William O’Donoghue (67)

TIPPERARY: Barry Hogan; Cathal Barrett, Brian McGrath, Barry Heffernan; Ronan Maher, Seamus Kennedy, Bryan O’Meara; Alan Flynn, Michael Breen; Dan McCormack, Patrick Maher, Niall O’Meara; Willie Connors, Jason Forde, Jake Morris. Subs: Noel McGrath for Patrick Maher, Dillon Quirke for Niall O’Meara (both 52), Cian Darcy for Willie Connors (60), Mark Kehoe for Alan Flynn (62), Paudie Maher for Bryan O’Meara (68) John McGrath for

Ref: Colm Lyons (Cork)