Sky Sports analyst Jamesie O’Connor reviews the weekend’s hurling action after Limerick and Dublin picked up dominant wins.
At half-time on Sunday afternoon, Clare were level with Limerick but they probably needed to have built up a lead.
In the first five minutes after the break, Limerick took control and that was the story of the match. The reigning Munster champions were not as sharp in the first half as John Kiely might have liked. There were probably a few stern words at half-time.
After the restart, they scored five points in as many minutes.
There was a feeling they had another gear, and by God have they shown it. It was seriously impressive. Tony Kelly, who was flawless in the first half, then missed a couple of frees, and you just felt from there that Clare were playing catch-up. Ryan Taylor’s goal gave them a lifeline, but Limerick just stretched their legs again.
Credit must go to the Banner. If they had dropped their heads, the margin would have been far greater than 10 points.
Tactically, the Clare half-backs wanted to sit. But Gearoid Hegarty and Kyle Hayes came deep to get on the ball, and Limerick just built from there. I thought Hegarty was absolutely sublime.
Outside of Tony Kelly, he was the outstanding player on the pitch. The Treaty had guys coming from the bench as well; Seamus Flanagan, David Reidy, Pat Ryan, all hungry to fight for a starting position.
It was a real statement of intent from Limerick: ‘We mean business this year’.
The road to Croke Park on December 13 is going to go through Limerick at some point.
Limerick scored 0-36. Dublin got 2-31. That is not the type of winter hurling we were expecting.
But in Croke Park on Saturday evening, I have never seen the field look as well. I was pitch-side, and saw the care and attention it was getting before the game.
For the games at HQ, there will be no issues with ground conditions. It’s absolutely immaculate.
When the ball is going to run and bounce, it’s conducive to the better and more skilful teams. You’re more likely to see the scores being higher than the traditional winter hurling game on heavier pitches.
Dublin get the job done
Based on Saturday night, Dublin are a good bit ahead of where they were last year.
Eoghan O’Donnell and Cian O’Callaghan coming back made a big difference to the defence. Defensively they looked really solid. Alan Nolan had nothing to do all day. Conor Burke did very well with the sweeper role.
With the half-forward line; Danny Sutcliffe, Chris Crummey and Cian Boland, along with Donal Burke, they look like they have a lot of pace and athleticism in their attack.
They have plenty of legs, mobility in the middle third of the field, and that is a requirement in the modern game.
Where I was positioned in the stadium, I was close to the Dubs’ substitutes warming up. Liam Rushe and Mark Schutte – who both came off the bench – looked lean and fit.
Next up for the men from the capital is Kilkenny.
You have to be able to compete physically with the Cats in the middle third of the field, and there’s no doubt Dublin have players that can do that.
Crummey gave them size in the half-forward line. He was unselfish on Saturday, with his distribution, popping off the ball to fellas in better positions. Every forward line needs players who are happy to do that.
Eamon Dillon is a guy who sometimes struggles to get into a game, but he is a nice option to have on the bench, for when things open up. ‘Trollier’ showed his explosive impact on Saturday, scoring 1-1 when introduced.
There’s more space in Croke Park than there would be in Parnell Park, and it may well suit guys like him.
Job done for Dublin, but it remains to be seen if they have enough firepower to live with the top teams. Brian Cody would have been impressed, and will know that Kilkenny will have their hands full next weekend.
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