Allianz Hurling League Division One, Group B
Limerick 1-36 Antrim 1-9

ALL-IRELAND champions Limerick quelled an early Antrim uprising as they powered on in the second half in Thurles to record a comprehensive win in the opening round of the Allianz Hurling League.

The Saffrons made a real fist of it for 25 minutes of this game and when Fred McCurry rattled the Shannonsiders' net they led, but just as they have done countless times in recent years, John Kiely's men seized control and retained it as the scored flowed.

A full-forward line of Adam English, Donnacha Ó Dálaigh and Shane O’Brien contributed 1-22 between them to give their manager plenty to ponder for the year ahead, while there were also some of the regulars involved including 2020 and 2022 Hurlers of the Year, Gearoid Hegarty and Diarmaid Byrnes.

Antrim headed into the game with with 14 missing through injury and illness, but those on the field acquitted themselves well for the majority of the opening period before Limerick grabbed control.

"I take a huge amount of positives out of the first 25 minutes when the our ball handling was good and the energy levels were high," said Antrim manager Darren Gleeson.

"A lot of new guys in there that really acquitted themselves well. I don't want to throw names out as the whole team went really hard there for as long as they had it in them.

"You're playing the five-in-a-row-chasing All-Ireland champions. Some of the narrative out there is that they didn't have the whole shooting match (full team). That's obvious enough, but John Kiely knows the inside forward line there of Shane O'Brien, Adam English and (Donnacha) Ó Dálaigh are serious hurlers.

"Cathal O'Neill has been the best young hurler in the country in my eyes over the last couple of years, then (Gearoid) Hegarty, (Conor) Boylan who has been a key man for them coming on over the last number of years, Colin Coughlan with a huge amount of minutes over the last few years for Limerick, so you're dealing with the top system and top hurlers in the country."

Conal Cunning's accuracy from frees helped the Saffrons into an early 0-3 to 0-1 lead before the Treaty full-forward line began to get into a stride and the 'hosts' (playing in Thurles due to their home pitch at the Gaelic Grounds undergoing maintenance) were edging ahead.

However, Antrim would stay the course early with a superb score from Niall O'Connor particularly eye-catching and it would get better in the 18th minute as Rian McMullan did well to gather in traffic and popped inside to Fred McCurry who marked his League debut by blasting past Jamie Power.

However, Limerick would respond in typical fashion with 10 points on the spin before the break to lead 0-16 to 1-7.

Adam English challenges Niall O Connor

Adam English challenges Niall O Connor

Antrim were still within striking distance, but they were dealt a major blow just after the restart as a clearance with intercepted by Hegarty who found O'Neill to drill low past Tiernan Smyth.

This took the wind out of Antrim's sails and Limerick were in no mood to let them off the hook as the points flowed again with Hegarty, Cathal O'Neill and Micheál Houlihan finding their range.

Scott Walsh hit Antrim's only point from play in the second period with Limerick finishing with a flourish as Graeme Mulcahy marked his introduction with a couple of late points to round off a good day for last year's All-Ireland, Munster and League champions. 

LIMERICK: J Power; F O’Connor, D Morrissey, A Costello; D Byrnes, D Reidy (0-2, 1f), M Quinlan (0-1); B Murphy, C Coughlan; G Hegarty (0-3), C O’Neill (0-3), C Boylan; D Ó Dálaigh (0-7), S O’Brien (1-5), A English (0-10, 6f);
Subs: M Houlihan (0-2) for Boylan (HT), E Hurley for Byrnes (HT), J Fitzgerald for Murphy (45), G Mulcahy (0-2) for English (51), P O’Donovan (0-1f) for Hegarty (61 temp), E McEvoy for O’Connor (63).

ANTRIM: T Smyth; P Duffin, R McCloskey, P Burke; S Walsh (0-1), R McGarry, C Boyd; S Rooney, N O’Connor (0-2); R McMullan (0-1f), A O’Brien, C McCann; C Cunning (0-4f), A Bradley (0-1), F McCurry (1-0).
Subs: E Trainor for Rooney (48), C McGarry for McCann (52), J McLaughlin for Bradley (52), R McAteer for O’Brien (64), N McGarrel for McMullan (68 mins).

REFEREE: T Walsh (Waterford).