Allianz NHL Division 1 – Galway 1-18 Limerick 1-11

Galway defeated Limerick by 1-18 to 1-11 in Round 1 of the Allianz National Hurling League Division 1 on Sunday in Kilmallock.

Galway survive Limerick test

Limerick 1-11 Galway 1-18

By Diarmuid O’Flynn for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Monday, February 22, 2010

THE ‘hair-dryer’ dressing- room treatment of one of his under-achieving teams by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is legendary in sport at this stage, but if there is anyone in the GAA who would give the great man a run for his money, it’s Galway’s fiery hurling manager John McIntyre. Consider then what the Galway dressing-room was like at half-time of yesterday’s NHL opener against Limerick. Because of the well-documented problems between the panel of 2009 – 25 of whom have either been dropped or have walked away – and manager Justin McCarthy, Limerick had practically a new team taking the field in the superb Kilmallock venue and were expected to be mere fodder for a high-flying Galway side that had recently won its first competition in Leinster, the Walsh Cup. Yet, and to the delight of a large and vocal local following, it was the underdogs with their noses in front at the break, 1-7 to 0-9, and full value for that lead.

Their goal had come in the 14th minute, a blistering finish by Cathal Mullane off a super Paudie McNamara cross, which put Limerick ahead for the first time in the game, (1-2 to 0-3). From there to the break Limerick continued to hurl with great skill and spirit. Half-backs Lorcan O’Dwyer, Andrew Brennan and Cathal King formed a very impressive line, midfielders Nicky Quaid and Paul Browne provided a steady supply of good ball to forwards Brian O’Sullivan, Graeme Mulcahy and Paudie McNamara (all members of the 2009 panel) who were impressive up front. A shock of massive proportions was really on the cards. Forget the hair-dryer – the foliage on the trees in the nearby Ballyhouras were in danger of being blown away in the blistering barrage from McIntyre. “A few choice words,” Galway keeper James Skehill admitted afterwards. “But they didn’t fall on deaf ears, we utilised it in the second half.”

They did, but only after an early scare when McNamara’s powerfully hit penalty (Alan O’Connor fouled by Pat Holland) was deflected out for a 65 by Damien Joyce. As it was Galway weathered that early storm, and a number of substitutions – most notably the experienced Fergal Moore and John Lee coming into the defence, the powerful Iarla Tannian and Niall Healy joining the attack – made all the difference as the Tribesmen eventually pulled away. An encouraging display then by Limerick, though manager McCarthy remained tight-lipped afterwards. “We played very well, showed great heart and determination,” he conceded. “Maybe if we scored the penalty that could have changed the result but in fairness I was delighted with the way they competed.”

Defied the forecasts of a lot of people? “I would say so, yeah. There was massive support, which was great.” The major question, however – has it secured his own position? “Ah now, now, now…” was all Justin would say to that. The aforementioned John McIntyre, however, who also doubles as sports editor of the Connacht Tribune, had his own views. The Limerick performance, while laudatory on many levels, wasn’t at all unexpected, but should be put in perspective, he reckoned: “What happened here today vindicates Justin McCarthy to some extent.

“They still lost the match and what happens now is up to the county board and the people involved in Limerick hurling. This was a fixture that had danger (for Galway) written all over it. Cork’s best performance last year under similar circumstances was against Tipperary in Thurles – they carried no baggage into the game. We expected this young Limerick side to have a right go at us and they did – we had to unload the bench to dig us out of trouble. “What people shouldn’t forget (however) is that one third of our team today was making their National League debut so we were inexperienced in a lot of positions as well, and it’s a learning curve. It’s very hard to just be slotted into a county team and see your career take off instantly.

“You have to serve your apprenticeship and maybe we were on a bit of a hiding to nothing after going up and beating Dublin last Sunday. Every match is different, a big Limerick following turned out today – maybe there was a curiosity factor, I don’t know, but we had a job to do. “We made hard work of it, I think that’s attributable to the way Limerick battled but we got there in the end, and have to focus in on the Waterford game in Pearse Stadium next Sunday.” Having seen them up close, is this Limerick team now capable of progressing from this, perhaps win a few games, avoid relegation? “I have no idea,” he said. “In some ways this was their easiest fixture.”

Scorers for Galway: G Farraher 0-6 (3f, 1s/l); I Tannian 1-2; C Donnellan 0-3; N Cahalan 0-2; N Hayes, D Burke, A Harte, N Healy, T Óg Regan (f), 0-1 each.

Scorers for Limerick: A O’Connor 0-6 (5f, 1’65); C Mullane 1-0; B O’Sullivan 0-2; G Mulcahy 0-2; P McNamara 0-1.

Subs for Galway: F Moore for Holland, 42; N Healy for Harte, 47; I Tannian for Hayes, 47; J Lee for Hynes, 64; D Collins for Burke, 69. Blood – E Ryan for Callanan, 31/35.

Subs for Limerick: T O’Brien (Patrickswell) for Owens, 50; P Harty for Mullane, 61; D Madden for Quaid, 64.

Referee: C McAllister (Cork)