By Kevin Egan
Offaly 0-14 Limerick 1-19
Limerick’s trip to Cusack Park in Ennis on March 20 will be a promotion showdown regardless of what happens next weekend after the Shannonsiders travelled to O’Connor Park in Tullamore and easily disposed of the challenge of Offaly in this afternoon’s Allianz League clash.
Terrible shooting from both sides was the hallmark of a contest that was high on intent and intensity but somewhat lacking in precision, while Offaly will look back with real regret on Seán Gardiner’s decision to attempt a cross field pass off his own goal-line late in the first half, at a time when they had worked hard to draw level at 0-7 apiece.
Colin Egan replied with a fine score for the Faithful County but Limerick powered ahead in the five minutes before the short whistle, tacking on four points through Tom Morrissey, Declan Hannon and a couple of long range frees from Diarmuid Byrne.
Limerick’s 1-11 to 0-8 interval lead was arguably the least they deserved after missing the target eleven times in the first half, but Offaly failed to take advantage of their reprieve and spurned a series of glorious chances after the restart when they could have dragged themselves right back into contention.
Shane Dooley struck some excellent points but he also missed three good opportunities in succession, while afterwards manager Eamon Kelly felt that his side was unlucky to have a James Mulrooney goal called back for a 20m free, the whistle sounding for an earlier foul on Joe Bergin as the sliothar rolled into the net.
Limerick added just three points to their tally between the 36th and 68th minute of the tie despite the fact that there was no significant breeze blowing either way along the field in Tullamore.
While Offaly reduced the gap to four points in that time, they will feel that they should have been within striking distance going into the closing minutes – and after derailing Limerick’s promotion ambitions in 2014 and 2015, they might have fancied their chances of unsettling their highly fancied opponents from there.
Instead Limerick were able to cut loose in the closing stages as they tacked on four points late on, while they also could have had a second goal if it wasn’t for an outstanding save by James Dempsey to deny Barry Nash.
The result leaves their clash with Laois effectively redundant next week as the winner of their local derby clash in Ennis will top division 1B regardless of other results.
However, afterwards TJ Ryan insisted that adding a second win over midlands opposition in six days will be his only priority.
“We’re not thinking about Clare at all, that’s a long way down the road” he said after the game. “We came here today looking to win the game and to continue to build momentum and that’s the approach we’ll take at 5pm next Saturday as well.”
The Limerick manager added that they’ll be monitoring the fitness of star forward Declan Hannon in the coming days after the Adare forward was withdrawn due to a heel injury late on, but that he’s expecting him to take part in next weekend’s fixture.
“Declan was the focal point of the attack and he was having a fine game and we did lose our way a little once he was withdrawn, but we’ll assess him now and hopefully he’ll be okay. We’d also expect Graeme Mulcahy to be available after he suffered an injury midweek while James Ryan is back training too so he’ll be another option.”
Offaly: J Dempsey; N Wynne, C McDonald (0-1), P Rigney; D Shortt, C Doughan, P Camon; S Kinsella, S Gardiner (0-1); P Murphy, C Egan (0-1), S Ryan; S Dooley 0-8 (0-5f, 0-1sideline), J Bergin (0-2), J Sampson (0-1).
Subs: J Mulrooney for Murphy (46), P Guinan for Sampson (48), S Cleary for Kinsella (56), L Langton for Gardiner (61), J Gorman for Ryan (68), Gardiner for McDonald (70+3)
Limerick: N Quaid; T Condon, R McCarthy, R English; D Morrissey, D Byrne (0-3f), B O’Connell; S Hickey (0-1), P Browne (0-3); G O’Mahony (0-2), T Morrissey (0-3), C Lynch; D Reidy, D Hannon (1-6, 0-2f), B Nash.
Subs: S Tobin for Reidy (48), Darragh O’Donovan (0-1) for Hannon (54), W McNamara for D Morrissey (61), M Ryan for T Morrissey (68), P Ryan for Nash (70+1)
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)