Offaly 1-19 Limerick 1-13
Four unanswered points in the closing seven minutes gave Offaly victory against Limerick and a shot at Tipperary in phase 3 of the SHC qualifiers.
Offaly looked for long stretches of this Tullamore clash to be on course for the win. However, they were met with a late onslaught from Justin McCarthy's young Limerick side who bagged 1-2 inside a five-minute spell to cut the deficit to two points with just eight minutes remaining.
But closing scores from Cathal Parlon (0-2), Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin dashed any hopes of a major Championship upset at O'Connor Park.
Offaly led by 1-8 to 0-7 at half-time, thanks to a 12th minute Derek Molloy goal, with Thomas O'Brien and James V O'Brien keeping Limerick in touch.
Limerick had gained the early initiative with fine points by the aforementioned O'Briens, inside two minutes, getting the underdogs off to a solid start.
Both sides were producing fast flowing hurling despite the heavy underfoot conditions. Offaly responded to the visitors' early burst as scores from Dooley and Parlon tied the contest at 0-2 apiece
Indeed, the hosts were unlucky not to snatch a fifth minute goal, but Limerick keeper Tadhg Flynn pulled off a fine save from a Joe Bergin shot.
Offaly did bulge the net, seven minutes later, when Bergin's initial shot was blocked by Limerick defender Kieran O'Rourke, and Molloy pounced on the resulting break to slot to the net from 13 metres out.
Offaly strung together some fine scores from play from Parlon, Molloy and Brendan Murphy to claim a 1-8 to 0-5 lead by the 32nd minute.
Thomas O'Brien bagged his fifth point inside two minutes of the restart, but Offaly were beginning to win the breaking ball at midfield, and capitalised with Brian Carroll hitting two points from play to push 1-10 to 0-8 ahead in the 40th minute.
Thomas O’Brien and substitute Cathal Mullane cut the deficit to a goal with 12 minutes remaining, but Offaly hit back with four unanswered points, seemingly doing just enough to keep ahead.
As the showers turned to glorious sunshine, the game suddenly upped in intensity, with points from Nicky Quaid and Peter Russell either side of Thomas O'Brien's goal cutting the deficit to two points with eight minutes remaining. O'Brien did well to create enough space for himself to fashion a shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper James Dempsey.
But Offaly dug deep with Parlon, Dooley and Joe Bergin pointing them home and into phase 3 of the qualifiers.
This win for Joe Dooley's men eliminates the need for a hurling qualifier draw tomorrow evening, and the confirmed fixtures are Offaly v Tipperary and Antrim v Dublin. The phase 3 games will take place at neutral venues to be decided by the GAA on Monday.
Scorers: Offaly: D Molloy 1-2, C Parlon, S Dooley (0-5f) 0-5 each, B Carroll 0-3, B Murphy 0-2, J Brady, J Bergin 0-1 each
Limerick: T O'Brien 1-7 (0-4f, 0-2 '65'), JV O'Brien 0-2, N Quaid, G Mulcahy, C Mullane, P Russell 0-1 each
OFFALY: J Dempsey; D Franks, P Cleary, J Rigney; D Kenny, R Hanniffy, D Morkan; B Murphy, D Hayden; D Molloy, J Brady, B Carroll; C Parlon, J Bergin, S Dooley.
Subs used: K Brady for Hayden (53 mins), G Healion for Molloy (66).
LIMERICK: T Flynn; K O’Rourke, C Hayes, S O’Neill; L O’Dwyer, B O’Sullivan, P Browne; T O’Brien, D Moore; James O’Brien, James V O’Brien, N Quaid; G Mulcahy, A Owens, R McKeogh.
Subs used: C Mullane for Moore (34 mins), A Brennan for James O'Brien (half-time), M Noonan for McKeogh (47), P Russell for Owens (61).
Referee: James Owens (Wexford)