I HAVE seen many great games in the past in the Gaelic Grounds, with some really physical exchanges, but I do not remember seeing one as intense as last Saturday night.
Great credit must go to Waterford and Limerick, playing the game as it should be played with incredible intensity. Great credit to referee Sean Stack for allowing the game to flow. I cannot remember seeing hits as hard in a long time.
The discipline of both sets of players was a credit to both counties and management teams as well. The physical size of some of these players is unbelievable. They would not look out of place a mile down the road in Thomond Park.
It had everything, especially in the first half, play swinging from end to end, the atmosphere of the crowd was electric, especially the Limerick crowd who were really in the majority. I was surprised that there was such a small support from Waterford, which was disappointing, after all they have given some great entertainment to these same supporters.
Maybe they are waiting for bigger days but I think they need better backing from their county. Every advantage is important when you are trying to make the breakthrough.
Waterford doing really well early on, guys like Iarlaith Daly, Jack Fagan, Calum Lyons and Austin Gleeson, were putting it up to Limerick and matching them in every aspect. Daly got injured as he was having the upper hand on Aaron Gillane. And when he had to go off Gillane really came into it.
I know Limerick had lost Cian Lynch before that, their fourth All-Star gone on top of Kyle Hayes, Seamus Flanagan and Peter Casey. Limerick have depth with young Cathal O'Neil coming into and hitting three points.
Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey showed leadership when Limerick needed it. And of course, their half-back line of Dan Morrissey, Declan Hannon and especially Diarmaid Byrnes was immense.
Dessie Hutchinson was outstanding, giving no less a man than Sean Finn the run-around, scoring 0-5. Jack Prendergast worked very hard as did Michael Kiely but I think Kiely would be better farther out from goal as he is a powerful runner.
Austin Gleeson is a quality player but sometimes he does not do quality things on the ball and can take the wrong option. Waterford are rated by many as the second-best team in the country, to me they are a good bit behind Limerick and have a big gap to make up.
That will be wider again when Limerick have all their top players back.
John Kiely must be a very happy man with the results to date but there is a long way to go in this championship yet, both for Limerick and Waterford.
On to Thurles on Sunday and I was wondering on my way there if we would see a repeat of the intensity from Tipp and Clare. We did not.
Clare were in complete command of this game from the word go with great leadership shown by Rory Hayes, John Conlan, Diarmuid Ryan and especially David McInerney. Up front Ryan Taylor, Tony Kelly, and particularly the returning Peter Duggan, his first championship game in two years.
Brian Lohan would have been very happy with this performance, especially the first half, but he also knows that it will not be good enough against Cork. Tipperary were only a shadow of the team that played very well against Waterford, but I think the disappointment of not getting something out of that game showed here, as they were very flat.
They were beaten in every position. That is not like a Tipp team in Thurles. It looks like their year could be over, and they have only themselves to blame.
Huge game for Clare and Cork next Sunday.
Very interesting few weeks ahead in this championship with some outstanding games yet to be played.
Most teams in with a chance, except maybe Tipperary, and even they have an outside chance, but hanging on by their fingernails.