Hurling has given us so many wonderful days during the past few years that it is hard to remember when we last left a venue feeling flat about the great game.
Both of last Sunday’s quarter-finals in Thurles were forgettable contests. That won’t concern Limerick or Tipperary, but for the 43,000 present in Semple Stadium it was an afternoon that won’t live long in the memory.
Did the playing of so many competitive games in a short period impact Wexford? Perhaps, but they contributed significantly to their own downfall by lots of careless play and a lack of urgency around the field.
Bar the opening 10 minutes this game was a stroll for Limerick. Whatever chance Wexford had of getting into the game vanished when Podge Doran missed an open goal during the first half. Had Doran scored it would have left a point between the sides.
The let-off spurred on Limerick and they never looked in danger thereafter. Heading towards the interval the Model County were just about still in the game when kamikaze defending let Limerick in for two goals. It was a damage limitations exercise during the second half for the Model County.
The last few weeks saw Wexford take many steps forward. Sunday was a big setback, but one hopes that the year will still be seen as one in which good progress was made. The players will certainly have learnt a lot from the experience.
Getting into Division 1A of the NHL is now a priority. That is where the real learning can take place.
On Sunday Wexford persisted with a short passing game and it backfired spectacularly. Conor McDonald is their ‘go-to’ attacker yet the outfield players hardly dropped a ball in on top of the full-forward over the 70 minutes.
Notwithstanding the feeble effort from Wexford this was a hugely impressive display from Limerick. The team has physicality, pace and an ability to score points from all angles and distances, albeit on occasions last Sunday their shooting was wayward.
Kilkenny face the Shannonsiders in the All-Ireland semi-final. It will take a serious effort to win that game.
Wexford’s defensive frailties were undoubtedly a factor in Limerick’s high scoring return, but the Shannonsiders’ attack has a canny eye for goal. Their team-work was instrumental in prising open their opponents.
Limerick’s last appearance in Croke Park this time last year was a huge disappointment. This time they will travel high in confidence. Kilkenny have been warned!
The Tipperary v Dublin tie may have been a closer affair, but offered little in entertainment value.
I expected Dublin’s performance to move to a higher level after their poor showing against Kilkenny in the Leinster final, but that did not happen.
Once again we saw futile short passing, poor ball control and a team showing little appetite for battle. It appeared as if the Dublin players just wanted to see the end of their championship season as quickly as possible.
Tipp won at their ease but it was far from a vintage display. Opinions from Tipperary supporters in the stand beside me were indicative of what some people thought of their team’s performance.
In fairness to the players they never looked in danger of losing and their hurling, in every facet, was far superior to Dublin’s. Perhaps they were already thinking of their upcoming semi-final clash with Cork, a pairing that looked a certainty from the interval.
Tipp need to improve against the Rebels and they will. The sight of the red jersey will spur the Premier players to greater effort and the outcome of that game is far from clear. Perhaps Cork will be favourites, but Tipp have every chance of reaching the final.
It is back to square one for Dublin and a complete reassessment of what the future holds. That future may not include Anthony Daly. The Clare man has given six years to Dublin and they have made spectacular progress during his time in charge.
Like Wexford, Dublin can use the coming months to assess their future. Playing in Division 1A of the NHL will help, but they also need to find new players.
We may have witnessed two disappointing displays last Sunday, but I suspect that normal service will resume in the All-Ireland semi-finals.