Goal hungry Limerick send Offaly packing to Division 2

LIMERICK are not quite certain they’ll be playing in the top flight of the league in 2008 despite thrashing Offaly in a Division 1B play-off tie at Nenagh yesterday.

They must still beat Division Two winners (Wicklow or Laois) to be certain they stay in the Division 1 next season.

Both managers were critical of the system which sees Offaly, making the drop down to the lower grade for next year.

“It does nothing for hurling,” said Limerick manager Richie Bennis. “Isn’t there a real danger that teams in the lower grade could suffer heavy defeats by Offaly, and what does that do for the game? Far better if we had a good competitive ten-team league with no promotion or regulation.

“Despite being badly beaten, Offaly played some good hurling at times and won’t learn anything by playing in a lower division next year.”

A hugely disappointed Offaly manager John McIntyre eventually came from the dressing room and fielded the awkward questions. “The wheels came off the wagon today in a big way,” said McIntyre.

“We certainly did expect to be on the end of such a heavy defeat. I felt we did well in the first half against the wind and a four-point deficit wasn’t much.

“Conceding an early goal just after half time was disastrous for us and we simply caved in all over the field after that. On the few occasions we were threatening a comeback Limerick hit us with goals and we simply had no answer.”

There was no hint of how this game would pan out in the first half. With so much at stake, there was a real bite to the game as both sides went for the win.

They were level three times before the hugely effective Ollie Moran at centre forward began the goal rush with a superb effort from 30 metres out in the 25th minute, which helped his side to an interval lead of 1-11 to 0-10.

A four-point lead didn’t look to be good enough as Offaly, with Joe Bergin, Kevin Brady and Rory Hanniffy in sparkling form, turned to play with the elements, but they were rocked by a second Limerick goal just two minutes after the resumption when Barry Foley raced clear before billowing the net.

That goal rocked the Faithful County’s challenge and as the Limerick forwards, superbly led by centre forward Ollie Moran, Andrew O’Shaughnessy and the hugely impressive Sean O’Connor, went on a scoring spree.

O’Connor first-timed Brian Geary’s long free to the net — Geary showed excellent accuracy from long range with four points from placed balls – and the Ahane man repeated the dose a couple of minutes later with his second major from a similar long free by his centre back.

Only excellent play by Joe Bergin kept his side alive, and he knocked in 1-2 to temporarily stop the rot. However Offaly’s problems lay in defence and they conceded two further goals to Barry Foley and Andrew O’Shaughnessy, who drove a 20 metre free to the net before the referee finally brought this one-sided contest to a conclusion.

Even allowing for Offaly’s second half collapse, Limerick boss Richie Bennis said he was very pleased with the way his players applied themselves.

“We hurled well all over the field for long periods. We have a game plan and it’s finally coming to fruition. Irrespective of how things went today, our number one target is the championship semi-final against Tipperary on June 10, and we’ll be ready for that day I can assure you.”

Scorers for Limerick: S. O’Connor 2-3; A. O’Shaughnessy 1-4 (1-0 pen, 0-2 frees); B. Foley 2-0; O. Moran 1-3; B. Geary 0-4 (0-2 65s, 0-2 frees); J. O’Brien 0-2; D. Ryan, P. Tobin, B. Begley, N. Moran 0-1 each.

Scorers for Offaly: J. Bergin 1-8 (0-4 frees); R. Hannify 0-3; E. Bevans, B. Carroll, S. Dooley 0-2 each; D. Molloy 0-1.

LIMERICK: B. Murray; K. O’Rourke, S. Lucey, S. Hickey; M. O’Riordan, B. Geary, P. O’Dwyer; N. Moran, M. O’Brien; B. Begley, O. Moran, H. Flavin; A. O’Shaughnessy, S. O’Connor, B. Foley.

Subs: M. Foley for O’Dwyer; D. Ryan for M. O’Brien; J. O’Brien for Begley; P. Tobin for B. Foley; K. Tobin for N. Moran.

OFFALY: S. O’Connor; C. Hernon, P. Cleary, D. Franks; G. Oakley, C. Horan, K. Brady; B. Teehan, B. Murphy; E. Bevans,. R. Hanniffy, D. Molloy; B. Carroll, J. Bergin, D. Murray.

Subs: B. O’Meara for Conor Hernan; D. Hoctor for P. Cleary; A. Egan for Bevans; S. Dooley for Molloy; C. McParlan for Cathal Horan.

Referee: J. Ryan (Tipperary).

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