Limerick made it four wins from four in the Allianz National hurling league with a 3-21 to 0-13 dismantling of Antrim in Cushendall.
Antrim had been relatively competitive in the league to date and despite losing all three games to date in the competition, they only had a scoring differential of -9 points.
The win for John Kiely’s side sets up a 1B promotion decider with Galway in Pearse Stadium next week knowing that a draw or win will be enough to see Limerick return to the top flight of league hurling next season.
Limerick blew an early goal chance when Aaron Gillane’s penalty hit the crossbar after Seamus Flanagan had been around down in the square.
The opening quarter was relatively tight as both sides exchanged scores. This was a Limerick match day panel that was short of both its Na Piarsaigh and UL contingent but when Diarmaid Byrnes landed a long range point from deep inside his own half, it was a sign that Limerick were beginning to flex their muscles.
Limerick spurned another goal chance when a Graeme Mulcahy shot was cleared off the line. The opening goal came in the the 30th minute when Limerick finally broke Antrim’s resistance when Oisin O’Reilly cut through the Antrim defence before unleashing a shot to the back of the net and give Limerick a four-point advantage.
The goal was the spark that finally ignited Limerick’s superiority as John Kiely’s side began to pull clear. Points from Gillane, Barry O’Connell and Mulcahy settled the visitors and gave them a halftime lead of 1-13 to 0-8.
A second half from Gillane put the result beyond doubt, while Antrim only managed five second half scores.
Limerick had now found their range and were now picking off scores with regular ease as Gillane, David Reidy, and Colin Ryan all added to the scoreboard.
A third goal via Graeme Mulcahy was the icing on the cake of a fine Limerick performance. At the outset of this campaign, Limerick had identified getting to the final game against Galway with the league in their own hands and top priority.
John Kiely and his team have done just that and deserve huge credit. The fact that they are missing a significant part of the panel speaks volume of the depth of talent it the county.
All roads will led to Galway next weekend in what will be the biggest of this young developing squad to date. As barometers go, the All Ireland champions on their own path will provide an excellent test.
Limerick: Ryan Elliott; Arron Graffin, John Dillon, Stephen Rooney; Ryan McCambridge, David Kearney, Joe Maskey; Eoghan Campbell, Conor McKinley (c), James McNaughton , Michael Armstrong (0-01), Neil McManus (0-04, 0-05f); Donal McKinley, Conor McCann (0-01), Nigel Elliott (0-02)
Subs: Neal Mc Auley for Maskey (26), , Paddy Burke for McCambridge (48), Conor Carson for McNaughton (36), Eoin O’Neill for Armstrong (54)
Limerick: Barry Hennessy; Tom Condon, Richie McCarthy, Richie English; Diarmaid Byrnes (0-01, 0-03f0, Declan Hannon (c), Dan Morrissey; Paul Browne (0-02), Colin Ryan (0-02); David Reidy (0-03, 0-01f), Cian Lynch, Barry O’Connell (0-02); Aaron Gillane (1-01, 0-04f), Seamus Flanagan, Graeme Mulcahy (1-02)
Subs: Daragh Fanning for Morrisey (60), Paddy O’Loughlin for English (60), Oisin O’Reilly (1-00) for Flanagan (11), Andrew La Touche Cosgrave for Gillane (56)
Ref: John O’Brien (Tipperary)