Cork hurlers know that high point tallies are now needed in championship

Cork hurlers know that high point tallies are now needed in championship

Mark Coleman takes a sideline for Cork last summer when they posted a record 40 points in beating Westmeath. Limerick hit 36 against Clare. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

CORK hurlers posted 40 points against Westmeath in an All-Ireland qualifier last season and that return raised a few eyebrows.

However, with respect to the Lake County, they are not residing in the higher echelons of inter-county hurling and whilst Cork’s points return was hugely admirable, they were always going to win that game comfortably.

Last Sunday, Limerick did not quite match that tally, putting up 36 in their emphatic victory over Clare.

It was a staggering return against a county that landed the McCarthy Cup just seven years ago and, despite not following up on that triumph subsequently, they are still a leading hurling county. This was the opening game in what is a four-game Munster championship this season and Limerick emphatically laid down a firm marker.

They rubberstamped the perception among many that come the season’s end they will have the McCarthy Cup back in their possession.

That remains to be seen but on the evidence presented at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, particularly in the second-half, they are going to be seriously in the mix.

That second-half performance may well be as good as we’ll get from any side over the coming two months.

Clare had been very competitive in the first-half and deserved to be on level terms at the interval even if there was an almost total dependency on Tony Kelly to secure their scores.

He delivered a dozen of their 15-point haul and proved again, if proof was needed, that he is one of the country’s top hurlers, right at the very top to be exact.

Tony Kelly. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Tony Kelly. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

He ended the game with a total of 17 points attached to his name and was, quite rightly, named man of the match.

But back to Limerick. We are never privy to what goes on during the half-time break but it would be fair to believe that John Kiely had used some strong terminology in his assessment.

Limerick were not as sharp or focused as he would have wanted them to be and were showing Clare too much respect.

The thinking was at that juncture was Limerick would still have the heavier artillery on and off the field to carry them to their expected victory but there needed to be a considerable rise in tempo.

And that’s exactly what transpired. Within five minutes of the re-start, they had put up six unanswered points.

Clare did get a goal back through a defensive mix-up to reduce the margin to a point again but that was as good as it got for them.

Limerick just proceeded to tear them asunder subsequently and some of their point-scoring was a joy to behold.

By the full-time whistle they had 11 different scorers as against just four for Clare.

Gearoid Hegarty, Aaron Gillane, Tom Morrisey, Kyle Hayes, Peter Casey and Diarmuid Byrnes split the posts with sublime perfection.

Clare’s Rory Hayes and Peter Casey of Limerick. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Clare’s Rory Hayes and Peter Casey of Limerick. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Their depth of resources was seen to great effect again with the likes of Pat Ryan, Darragh O’Donovan and Seamus Flanagan being introduced.

In a lot of other counties, these guys would be automatic starters.

In the end, it was just a stroll in the empty Ennis Road grounds and no doubt up in Portroe in North Tipperary, Liam Sheedy had been taking notes as no doubt Kieran Kingston and Liam Cahill were.

Tipperary, next Sunday on Leeside, will be a much different story altogether and the All-Ireland champions won’t concede 30 scores. Tipp are not the All-Ireland champions for nothing and proved their worth last season.

But that seems a long time ago now and Limerick will have what has to be a significant advantage in having a major championship game behind them.

At the same time, of course, Sheedy and his Tipp selectors will have studied last Sunday’s game in detail and they won’t be relying almost solely on one player to get their scores as Clare were with the magnificent Kelly.

In the game of hurling things can change very quickly as we are all too well aware and what transpires one week may not the next. But Limerick are up and running even if it did take them until the second half last Sunday to really get the show fully on the road.

Offensively, they were quite superb against Clare and they have a half-back sector of Byrnes, Declan Hannon and Paddy O’Loughlin which is surely as good as there is.

Their strength and class was evident everywhere when it mattered and even at this very early juncture, their collision with Tipperary next Sunday could be a game for the ages.

Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick in action against David McInerney at Thurles. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick in action against David McInerney at Thurles. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Cork and Waterford have each other to worry about the day before in Thurles before they even get to think about Limerick or Tipp in a final.

For now, though, Limerick must be on the front grid for the big prizes.

And they have the national league title thrown in for good measure.

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