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Weekend Takeaways

We pore over the GAA action to give you the big stories and insights from the weekend — from Parnell Park to Nowlan Park

We pore over the GAA action to give you the big stories and insights from the weekend.

Tipp of the iceberg?
Tipperary beat Kilkenny at Nowlan Park for the first time since 2008 and looked by far the better side.

The Cats were always going respond after the break, knowing the might not have gotten out of the venue alive if they continued to tril by 12 points.

They will be bolstered by the eventual return of the Ballyhale Shamrocks contingent, and the attacking prowess provided by TJ Reid, Adrian Mullen and Eoin Cody.

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The Premier have looked all at sea since winning the All-Ireland in 2019 and this was their first true test since embracing modern hurling: running through the lines, drawing the man, head up, and giving it to the man in the best position.

Despite hitting many wides and butchering goal chances, they look like a project ahead of schedule. Jason Forde will need to bring this form into championship, while Conor Bowe has All Star material written all over him.

Will either of these sides topple Limerick in 2023? Not on the evidence of this game, if we’re honest. SS

Ryan craving attitude and character 
Things certainly didn’t go to plan for Conor Lehane and Declan Dalton against Limerick last weekend but it’s clear that Cork boss Pat Ryan has great faith in the pair.

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Both were given the chance to work themselves into the game against the Treaty after misfiring in the first half with Dalton bagging a crucial goal while Lehane left a string of wides behind him to fire a big point late on.

That trust was again repaid in spades this weekend later with the pair lighting it up against Galway in Pearse Stadium – in a Cork side minus star forward Patrick Horgan – as they combined to fire 2-11 (2-3 for Lehane and 0-8 for Dalton), nearly half of Cork’s tally of 4-23.

Ryan’s Rebels are still a work in progress but it’s all about “attitude and character” as he bids to end their 18-year All-Ireland SHC famine.

“If you look at Conor Lehane – he wasn’t at his best last week against Limerick but he tried like a dog. He scored 2-3 today and we’re just delighted with the attitude and the character that our lads are giving. 

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“Declan fought fierce hard, he’s a fierce threat. He can score from anywhere, he’s a great striker of the ball. The one thing he’s doing, he’s working fierce hard for us at the moment.

“He’s brought that to his game. He has got himself in fantastic shape. Obviously he was left of the panel last year and he has a point to prove as well.” MV

Goalshy Dubs see of Saffs
Micheal Donoghue will be happy that Dublin held off Antrim’s late fightback to collect the two points at Parnell Park.

Having been nine points clear midway through a dull second half, the Saffs found the net twice through Keelan Molloy to stage a revival. Bringing Joe Maskey into the inside forward line provided a real focal point.

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Power is key to this Antrim side, with Conal Bohill bombing forward from wing-back, with Neil McManus and Maskey also aerial specialists. The Ulster side have plenty of pace and good runners, and that variety allowed them to create five goal chances on the day.

Darren Gleeson will know his side were second best but that they might also have collected a win, and not another frustrating moral victory.

Eleven different scorers for the Dubs, with Donal Burke the classiest shooter on display.

Danny Sutcliffe — on his return to the team — came on at full-forward but didn’t sparkle, suggesting he has some rust to shake off. Close to goal is an area where Dublin need to become stronger. 

An honourable mention to Fermanagh, who created the shock by beating Mayo, where perhaps football coach Steven Poacher is having a real influence on the Erne County. SS

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Hurling in Fitz’ and starts
Waterford eventually won by a large margin and Davy Fitz will be happy to get a first competitive win on the board.

Laois, for their part, play some nice hurling and use the ball well. Ryan Mullaney’s two goals – the second in particular after smart interplay the length of the pitch – showed a team coasting on top of the sod. Sustaining it is the issue.

The early red card to Michael Kiely changed things but Laois seemed determined to get one of their one with some wild tackling.

The positive side of the O’Moore County’s tackling saw them intercept Waterford three times during the first half as the latter looked to handpass through the lines. Aaron Dunphy popped over a number of points and showed good form.

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Enda Rowland should have stopped a Neil Montgomery shot hit the net, while Billy Nolan was given no chance by Mullaney’s low netted finish on the half hour. The number six found himself upfield time after time.

Eventually, Aidan Corby of Laois also saw red for a high shoulder, and it seemed a marginal call. Still, it may have been a case of testing the referee one time too many by the hosts.

Dessie Hutchinson’s goal on 48 minutes was entertaining to watch. Goalkeeper Rowland was turned over outfield, and eventually the Ballygunner man finished past a defender – from a position where he might never have shot against a top goalkeeper.

After conceding that second goal, it was as if Waterford decided to up their level and take over.

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Perhaps it is a fitness or loading issue, but seeing Austin Gleeson again used as an impact sub – despite Stephen Bennett being unavailable due to suspension – suggests a message is being sent to the main man.

So Willie Maher has another heavy defeat to mull over, though his side’s butchering of two easy goal chances in the second half suggests it should have stayed much closer to the end. SS

Clash of styles as Treaty dismantle Banner
There may have been nothing to separate them in normal time on three occasions last year, but there was only one team in it on Saturday night as Limerick lay waste to a Clare side who looked to be at sixes and sevens.

Many counties have tried to replicate the exquisite triangle passing that is a hallmark of John Kiely’s Treaty side and while there are many ways to skin a cat, the Banner’s use of possession was puzzling to say the least.

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Limerick were slick – a noticeable improvement from the week before against Cork – with quick-fire passes from the hand and the stick opening up space to shoot from distance or work the ball inside with a sympathetic ball into the full-forward line.

Clare, on the other hand, were one-dimensional as they rained down long balls into a Limerick defence which generally soaked it up and spit it out.

They may have got some joy from an early aerial assault with Peter Duggan excellently tapping down to Ian Galvin to finish to the net but they were generally wasteful in possession and lacking creativity.

Plenty to work on for Brian Lohan and Co while Limerick already look they mean business with an All-Ireland four-in-a-row in their sights. And a certain Cian Lynch edging back to his best. MV

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Integrity of the National Hurling league.
Limerick recorded their first National Hurling League win against a Liam MacCarthy opponent for the first time since 2021 when they defeated Clare last night.

This result once again sparks discussion about the integrity of the competition as it has become a shark tank for smaller developing counties who struggle to compete with rotated/developmental powerhouses.

The fact the rule regulations prohibits a team like Limerick from ever being relegated from the top tier of Division One should be a major talking point.

The All-Ireland champions have shown that they use the league as part of their training block for preparations as they know there will be no consequences if they fail to win any matches, as they can rely on beating the Joe McDonagh team of the group to secure safety

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What was once a prestigious competition has become a laughing stock as teams don’t want to reach the League final, as there is only a two-week break before championship.

Just look what happened to Waterford last year — who will want to repeat that feat? DOF

By Shane Stapleton, Michael Verney and Darragh O’Flynn

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