The Limerick Senior Hurling Championship began with a full round of fixtures over the weekend.
Just a fortnight after Limerick sealed a three in a row of All-Ireland Senior Hurling titles, the majority of that squad were back in action for the first round of the club championships at the weekend.
In the Limerick SHC, Kilmallock began their defence in style while Na Piarsaigh were also winners in group one, with Adare and Ahane playing out a draw.
In the second group, Mungret started life in the top tier with a win with Ballybrown and South Liberties also grabbing victories.
From the opening round, there were a number of talking points to emerge as we take a look at some of the key ones below.
Kilmallock’s kids are alright
Despite coming into the competition as defending champions, much of the pre championship narrative focused on other teams with Kilmallock joint-third in the bookies odds prior to the first round. However, the nature of their 2-23 to 2-9 win over Patrickswell in a repeat of last year’s final has forced the county to take notice.
The Balbec, who are under new management despite winning the championship last year, were slow off the blocks in Newcastle West but once they found their rhythm, they were unstoppable. Oisin O’Reilly continued in the form that made him the standout player in the championship in 2021 while Paddy O’Loughlin was seamless in his return to club hurling.
Yet, it was the performances of a pair of U20s that really stood out in the 14-point win. After starring in goals for the county side in their run to the All-Ireland final, Conor Hanley Clarke was repositioned to centre-forward where he was involved in everything good that Kilmallock produced. Last year he showed glimpses of that talent from the bench but on Saturday he was front and centre with his goal putting the cherry on top of a flawless display.
Just ahead of him on the field, Shane O’Brien lived up to the the hype in his first game in the senior championship as he also found the net, his finish of the highest order. Outside of that, he terrorised the Patrickswell rearguard, adding a number of points as Kilmallock’s main threat in a forward line that included three All-Ireland winners.
If anyone doubted the Balbec prior to throw in, they certainly don’t now with Fintan O’Connor adding a couple of new notches to champions.
Na Piarsaigh leave it late against Doon
After losing a number of high profile contests to the Na Piarsaigh in recent years, including two county finals, Doon looked to have finally gotten a win over the City side over the weekend. But in true Na Piarsaigh style, the Caherdavin outfit found the way down the stretch to kick off their campaign with a five point win.
Indeed, they trailed by as many as five points with ten to play but goals from David Dempsey and Conor Boylan swung the tide in their favour as they secured the 2-20 to 1-18 victory in Kilmallock.
Despite the return of the Casey brothers, Doon started brightly with Dean Coleman’s goal giving them the early initiative.
And when Barry Murphy made it 1-18 to 0-16 after 50 minutes, there only looked like one winner. But the six-time champions can never be ruled out and the manner of their victory will surely spur them on with the reigning champions awaiting in round two this weekend.
For Doon, they will have the chance to regroup against Adare on Friday, but having lost their opener, there is little room for error for the East side going forward.
Mungret St Pauls avenge PIHC final defeat
A rivalry that is quickly producing classic after classic, Mungret St Pauls and Kildimo Pallaskenry delivered once more in the opening round as they renewed rivalries after a year hiatus. Kildimo Pallaskenry’s win in their previous encounter, the 2020 Premier Intermediate final, ensured no game last year but Mungret St Pauls did follow in their footsteps, regrouping from a final loss to capture the PIHC title.
That set up a first round tie between the teams in Mungret St Pauls first game back in the top tier in 30 years as Liam Cronin’s side avenged the PIHC final defeat with a 1-16 to 1-13 win in Clarina. That brought the tally to 3-2 in Mungret’s favour since 2018, with Cronin’s side, apart from Adare last year, the only team to beat KP in the championship since 2017.
This time around, KP started brightly and an exceptional Kyle Hayes goal deservedly saw them into a five point lead at the break. But with the supporting crew around Hayes failing to fire, Mungret grew into the game with Paul O’Brien leading the charge. His brilliant solo goal had them back in the game and scores from substitutes Conor O’Halloran and Cian O’Brien helped Mungret over the line.
Next up, they face group two favourites Ballybrown who were comprehensive over Blackrock in the opener. But, a second City derby should ensure another physical battle as last year’s premier intermediate champions face the acid test.