Galway and Limerick showed credentials with dominant wins, says Jamesie O’Connor
The statement of the weekend came from Galway at Croke Park, as they hammered reigning Leinster champions Wexford, 1-27 to 0-17.
A few weeks ago on Inside The Game, we gave our predictions for the All-Ireland Championship and there wasn’t much talk about the Tribesmen. We were all focusing on Tipperary and Limerick, and to a lesser extent Kilkenny.
But the 2017 All-Ireland champs silenced their doubters on Saturday evening.
I felt Wexford had a great chance. Galway were missing a few big names. There’s a lot of miles on the clock – was the same appetite going to be there?
But they answered all the questions in spades. Shane O’Neill’s team looked fit, physically imposing and had huge fire-power up front in Conor Whelan and Brian Concannon particularly. They laid down a marker to everybody that they are going to have a big, big say in this year’s championship.
Fintan Burke’s injury at the end was a worry – he would be a loss if he is to miss any games going forward. But with David and Daithí Burke to come back in, they are going to be a force.
Granted, Wexford weren’t at their best, but Galway were awesome.
Limerick overpower the reigning All-Ireland champs
It’s back to the drawing board for Tipperary, with regards of how to beat this Limerick team. The Treaty had them figured out in last year’s Munster final, and had all the answers again on Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Do you rule Tipp out? Absolutely not. They have two weeks to lick their wounds; the draw was fairly kind to them. You would still imagine they will be hot favourites to be in the quarter-final.
By his very nature, Liam Sheedy will view the glass as half-full. We saw their response in 2019. There was no feeling sorry for themselves; they picked up it and finished strong.
There’s obviously another match to be played, but I still think Tipp will be in the last four and that opinion hasn’t changed. But certainly, they’re going to find a huge improvement.
But the nine-point margin perhaps flattered the Premier on Lee-side.
The margin could have been a lot bigger than what it was, if Noel McGrath had been penalised for picking the ball off the ground in the build-up to his brother’s goal, or if Limerick had taken more of their chances for green flags.
Both sides were up for it yesterday, and both managers were up for it. You could see that on the line, the energy that they were bringing.
By the end, Tipp weren’t creating anything, and they were struggling to win ball in the middle third. Brian Hogan was going long with his puck-outs to try and get the ball into the danger zone. But Limerick dealt with it comfortably.
They are through to another Munster final, and still look like the team to beat.
Déise click back into gear
Waterford looked reinvigorated on Saturday, winning their first championship match in two years.
It’s not long ago they were in an All-Ireland final. Luck deserted them in 2018, with injuries and a crucial decision went against them in their ‘home’ match in the Gaelic Grounds against Tipp.
Things went pear-shaped in 2019, but the players had to front up and take responsibility for that. They were aware they needed to stand up and be counted.
In that sense, it made the job easier for Liam Cahill coming in.
You can’t question the character of the likes of Jamie Barron and Tadhg de Búrca. Even if they had lost, there was going to be nobody pointing the finger, or saying these guys didn’t battle to the end.
Nobody epitomised that more than Calum Lyons at wing-back, scoring 1-2. He made bursting runs up and down the field all day.
That honesty of effort and that willingness to spill your guts for the team was evident all over the field.
Conor Prunty was excellent, while de Búrca was imperious at centre back. He read the game so well, but his use of the ball was a masterclass in how to play the role. He carried it when he needed to carry it. He used a simple hand-pass when he needed to. And he hit it long when that was the right thing to do.
He was the fulcrum from which the whole thing revolved.
Jamie Barron is back to his best in the middle of the field. And we saw Austin Gleeson back firing as well.
Granted, the Déise will be clear underdogs against Limerick and no one will give them a chance. But if they bring that same honesty and energy and effort, which is at a premium and matters more this time of the year, they will be OK. I’m not saying they will win the All-Ireland, but they will be OK.
Liam Cahill has to be thrilled with the win and thrilled with the way they worked and how they performed. It puts to bed a lot of the misery they experienced over the last two years.
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