Limerick show Wexford no mercy in quarter-finals
The build-up had been intense, the sense of anticipation palpable and the mood music from the four competing counties all rather intoxicating.
Yet yesterday's two All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals at a packed Semple Stadium, Thurles, proved singularly devoid of the silken skills that had been expected and the sharp, competitive edge that is the hallmark of action at this stage of the championship was somewhat conspicuous by its absence.
Instead, the eagerly-awaited Limerick v Wexford tie ended as a meaningful contest by half-time when the Shannonsiders led by a mammoth 3-15 to 0-8 before embarking on the formality of a second-half stint that eventually copper-fastened a stunning 4-26 to 1-11 victory.
Shane Dowling (2), David Breen and Paul Browne landed Limerick's goals while Graham Mulcahy and Declan Hannon were among the forwards in the vanguard of a sustained points-scoring blitz.
Wayne McNamara and Ritchie McCarthy underpinned the winners' defence and it is a measure of their stoic resistance that Wexford's only goal did not come until late from sub Shane Tompkins.
Limerick manager TJ Ryan subsequently conceded that Wexford's recent spate of games could have taken its toll on their stamina.
"They came into this game on the back of big wins and maybe on another day they would have put it up to us much better. We are happy to be going into an All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny though," said Ryan.
And although they beat Dublin by a more modest margin (2-23 to 0-16), Tipperary's dominance in this game matched that of Limerick in the Thurles opener.
Tipperary always held the upper hand but their authority became more pronounced when John O'Dwyer flashed in the first of his two goals in the 51st minute.
At 1-18 to 0-12, Tipperary were in comfortable mode and when O'Dwyer netted for a second time it merely emphasised the gulf that there was between the sides.
While Tipp will now meet Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final, there must be a question mark hanging over Dubs' boss Anthony Daly.
"You never think about a decision like that coming into a game like this. You are just totally focused on getting a result. You're not in a proper position to make that call," he said afterwards.
"Maybe it is time to let somebody else at it, we'll see."