Though managing just two points from play in the second period, Limerick did enough to record their first top-flight league win since 2009.
Totally reliant on Diarmaid Byrne’s dead-ball accuracy for the majority of the second period and, to a lesser extent, that of Aaron Gillane, Limerick had seen a four-point lead whittled down to one as the finish line came into the view, the All-Ireland champions left frustrated by a spiralling wide count.
At the other end, subs Harry Kehoe and Paul Morris, along with Conor McDonald, had thrown over three on the bounce to leave Wexford 2-10 to 1-14 behind as the clock ticked towards the 70th minute. The home outfit had two chances to level matters, but both were wide of the target.
A Darragh O’Donovan sideline cut and their first score from play in the second-half, via Gearoid Hegarty, provided Limerick with much-needed breathing space. That said, we looked destined for a draw when Wexford broke through on goal two minutes into injury-time. Conor McDonald’s shot came off the post, with Liam Óg McGovern’s follow-up effort superbly turned away by Nickie Quaid.
Though showing far more grunt than guile, Limerick held on.
On a bitterly cold afternoon at Wexford Park, temperatures quickly rose inside the whitewash with referee Fergal Horgan doling out the first of nine cards throughout a somewhat ill-tempered game when booking Cian Lynch for a reckless challenge on a Wexford defender.
Lynch was again involved in the incident which led to the sending off of two players on 26 minutes, though on this occasion he was the victim rather than the perpetrator. Having blocked down a Liam Ryan clearance close to the sideline, the Wexford full-back shoved the hurler of the year into the advertisement boarding in front of the main stand. Seamus Flanagan didn’t take too kindly to the treatment of his teammate and was quickly on the scene to give Ryan a piece of his mind. Whether he was dismissed for being the third man in or interfering with Ryan’s helmet is unclear, but the net result was that himself and the Wexford defender walked to the line.
Wexford, despite playing into the wind, actually led at this juncture, 2-3 to 1-5. Their second goal had arrived just before the double-sending off, Jack O’Connor finishing to the net after David Dunne’s effort had crashed off the post.
The home side, though, would only manage one further point in the closing 10 minutes of regulation time and five minutes of stoppages, that an O’Connor free. Limerick, on the other hand, reeled off five points through Peter Casey, Colin Ryan (sideline), Aaron Gillane (0-3, 0-1 free) to lead by three at the break.
Gillane was responsible for the Limerick goal on 10 minutes, with Wexford’s Cathal Dunbar having produced the first green flag of the game three minutes earlier.
This three-point win was Limerick's fifth competitive victory on the bounce, picking up where they left off in 2018.
Scorers for Limerick: A Gillane (1-5, 0-3 frees); D Byrnes (0-3 frees), P Casey (0-3 each); C Ryan (0-1 sc), D O’Donovan (0-1 sc), G Hegarty, T Morrissey, S Flanagan, B Murphy (0-1 each).
Scorers for Wexford: J O’Connor (1-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ‘65); C Dunbar (1-0); C McDonald (0-2); P Foley (0-1 free), L Óg McGovern, P Morris, H Kehoe (0- each).
Wexford: M Fanning; S Donohoe, L Ryan, C Firman; M O’Hanlon, S Murphy, P Foley; D O’Keeffe, A Nolan; J O’Connor, D Dunne, L Óg McGovern; C Dunbar, C McDonald, K Foley.
Subs: S Reck for Firman (21 mins, inj); P Morris for D Dunne (55); D Reck for P Foley, H Kehoe for Nolan (both 63)
Limerick: N Quaid; T Condon, S Finn, R English; D Byrnes, D Hannon, D Morrissey; C Lynch, C Ryan; G Hegarty, T Morrissey, D Dempsey; A Gillane, S Flanagan, P Casey.
Subs: B Murphy for Dempsey (55 mins); D O’Donovan for Ryan (58); P Ryan for P Casey (65)
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).