Though the result will probably be forgotten long before we reach the business end of the season there was an unmistaken message in it. Tipperary are up for the battle this season.
Not surprisingly the game lacked fluency and essentially it turned into a battle of the respective free-takers. Jason Forde hit 0-14 for Tipperary with his Limerick counterpart David Reidy replying with 0-8 from the home side.
Limerick sported a new commemorative hooped jersey to mark the centenary of the county’s 1921 All-Ireland win, the first team to be presented with the Liam MacCarthy Cup – unfortunately it was virtually impossible to see the numbers on them.
Richie English returned to side for the first time since damaging his cruciate ligament during a league tie against Galway in February of last year while the current Hurler of the Year Ger Hegarty and the 2018 winner Cian Lynch began on the bench.
The sides were level on three occasions in the early exchanges before three scores on the spin put a more fluent Limerick 0-6 to 0-3 ahead. But a brace of Jason Forde points cut the deficit to a minimum by the end of the first quarter.
Tipperary had a much more productive second quarter and took the lead for the first time in the 25th minute. Forde’s frees and two super long-range efforts from Ronan Maher – one from a placed ball - were the key scores as Limerick’s inclination to concede frees proved costly.
The Premier’s blocking and overall work rate was particularly noticeable and had Forde been more accurate with his long range frees – he missed three – they could have been further in front. Jake Morris had a goal chance seven minutes before the break but his weak effort was comfortably saved by Nickie Quaid.
Limerick dropped three shots shorts into rookie Tipperary goalkeeper Barry Hogan but points from captain Will O’Donoghue, Adrian Breen and Diarmuid Byrne (free) kept the scoreboard ticking over. Al the same, they were a shade fortunate to be level at 0-12 apiece at the break.
Two big plays from Dan McCormack which yielded two points – the second from Forde after the wing forward drew a free – to give the visitors an early advantage in the second half.
They continued to dominate forcing Limerick to concede frees and Forde obliged and by the 50th minute they were four clear (0-18-14) at the end of the third quarter.
By then the Treatymen had introduced Cian Lynch in an effort to stem the one-way traffic but the hard running of Adrian Breen and Niall O’Meara made the Limerick defence look very ordinary.
Richie English and Will O’Donoghue were booked as the pressure mounted.
Gearoid Hegarty came on at the start of the final quarter and the holders finally achieved some traction with a brace of frees from Reidy
and Seamus Flanagan’s fourth point from play – it was the first point from play in the second half by one of the side’s starting forwards.
The gap was now down to two as the game entered its final ten minutes but the momentum was with Limerick and points from substitute Peter Casey and another Reidy free squared things up on the 65 minute mark.
Having seen a five-point lead evaporate, Tipp desperately needed a score and a Forde free a minute later saw them edge back ahead.
However, a foul on Padraic Maher on the halfway line as the clock ticked beyond 70 minutes gave Reidy the opportunity to save the day and the Limerick marksman made no mistake.
Limerick: D Reidy 0-8 6f, S Flanagan 0-4, A Breen 0-3, P Casey 0-2, D O’Donovan 0-1, W O’Donoghue 0-1, D Byrne (1f) 0-1 each.
Tipperary: J Forde 0-14, 11f, 1 65, R Maher 0-2, 1f N O’Meara 0-1, W Connors 0-1, D McCormack 0-2, M Breen 0-1
LIMERICK: N Quaid; A Costello, S Finn, R English; D Byrnes, K Hayes, B Nash, W O’Donoghue, D O’Donovan; T Morrissey, D Reidy, C Boylan; A Breen, S Flanagan, D Dempsey.
Subs: Casery for Dempsey 45, C Lynch for O’Donovan 45, G Hegarty for Boylan 56, D O’Connell for Breen 60, B O’Grady for O’Donoghue 67
TIPPERARY: B Hogan; C Barrett, R Maher, B Heffernan; B McGrath, S Kennedy, B O’Meara; A Flynn, M Breen, D McCormack, P Maher, N O’Meara; W Connors, J Forde, J Morris.
Subs: N McGrath for O’Meara (54), C Darcy for Connors 60, M Kehoe for Flynn 63, P Maher for O’Meara 67
REF: Colm Lyons (Cork)