Forced to line out without a number of regulars who opted to concentrate on hurling, O’Sullivan watched in admiration as his side stormed into a seven-point lead by the end of the third quarter. But then he was forced to sweat it out as Roscommon put in a storming last 15 minutes that only just fell short of a comeback.
There was much to admire about Limerick yesterday: Shane Gallagher and Stephen Lavin were magnificent in defence; John Galvin caught some great ball in midfield, while Timmy Carroll, John Murphy and Michael Reidy gave the Roscommon defence a torrid time.
“Overall I’m very pleased with the result. We showed a lot of character when reduced to 14 players for the last 10 minutes,” said O’Sullivan.
“I know our lads can play football. What I was looking for today was a bit of heart and commitment and the lads showed they had both when Roscommon came back us in the second half. We have a game plan and the lads stuck at it today. That was pleasing also.
“Hopefully, we can build on this performance. Thankfully we picked up no serious injuries and everyone should be right for the Longford game.”
In front of 2,500 spectators Limerick threatened to run Roscommon off the park with their pace and excellent ball control and were full value for their 0-4 to 0-0 lead after 10 minutes. The visitors were dreadful in that opening half and could only manage two points from Ger Heneghan, the only forward to cause the Limerick defence any problems. Both scores came from frees, the first after 19 minutes and the second eight minutes before half time. In between the home side continued to play some excellent football with Damien Reidy solid at centre back and Stephen Lavin coming forward at every opportunity and they were full value for their 0-08 to 0-2 half time lead.
Roscommon manager Sean Maughan admitted some harsh words were said in their dressing room at the break and, coupled with the introduction of 19-year-old Cathal Cragg and the switch of Karol Mannion to midfield, there was a lot more urgency in the visitors in the second half.
However it was the Limerick who continued to hold the upper hand and a succession of excellent points had them 0-12 to 0-5 in front at the three quarter stage and looking good.
As often happens in such situations, Limerick appeared to take their foot off the pedal and with Mannion a dominant figure at midfield and Cragg causing problems with his probing runs, Roscommon began to apply a lot of pressure. It took an excellent save by Limerick netminder Sean Kiely to deny Seamus O’Neill a goal before the home side suffered two bad blows.
Jason Stokes was forced off with a leg injury after being on for only seven minutes and worse was to follow when the impressive Timmy Carroll was red carded for a second book offence.
It was backs-to-the-wall defending by the home side as Rocommon reduced the deficit to just two points and after the magnificent Stephen Lavin made that superb block on Cathal Cragg as he bore down on goal, Michael Crowley eased the pressure on the home side with a late point, their first for 12 minutes to get their league campaign off to a winning start.
Scorers Limerick: M. Reidy 0-4 (0-3 frees); M. Crowley (0-1 free), J. Murphy (0-1 free) 0-3 each; T. Carroll, S. Buckley, P. Aheren, S. Lavin 0-1 each.
Roscommon: G. Heneghan 0-8 (0-5 frees); R. Cox, K. Mannion, C. Cragg 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: S. Kiely; S. Gallagher, J. McCarthy, P. Browne; C. Mullane, D. Reidy, S. Lavin; J. Galvin, S. Lucey; P. Ahern, T. Carroll, S. Buckley; M. Crowley, J. Murphy, M. Reidy. Subs: A. Lane for Gallagher; J. Stokes for Browne; G. Noonan for Stokes.
ROSCOMMON: G. Claffey; J. Whyte, D. Casey, S. McDermott; J. Rogers, P. O’Connor, B. Goode; S. O’Neill, M. Finneran; J. Tiernan, G. Lohan, D. Connellan; G. Heneghan, K. Mannion, S. Fahy. Subs: R. Cox for Lohan; C. Cragg for Finneran; S. Purcell for Rogers; M. O’Carroll for Goode; B. Higgins for Tiernan.
Referee: D. Coldrick (Meath).