Justin McCarthy’s men did just enough to carry off the points, but were thankful that Dublin’s Alan McCrabbe and David O’Callaghan spurned two late scoreable frees, when Limerick led 1-10 to 0-12.
The hosts worked the ball upfield in injury-time and won a sideline which was beautifully arced over the bar by Niall Moran.
The closing score sealed Limerick’s success but it was a rare moment of splendour on a day when the teams served up stodgy fare. Both sides coughed up possession repeatedly and the game was strewn with basic mistakes. Limerick and Dublin had enjoyed buoyant openings to 2009, yet they were locked in a tight struggle from the word go. Still, for McCarthy, it was all about the result.
“A win is a win. There’ll be no easy games this time of year. Don’t forget Dublin are a very lively and competitive team. We had a lot of wides and it’s something we’ll be working on. It wasn’t an easy game and there wasn’t much room for manoeuvre. It was a matter of just sticking in there. We’re trying to build a team on one hand and get a result on the other hand.”
Dublin’s renaissance under Anthony Daly’s stewardship, smacked against its first roadblock after wins over Cork and Galway. Still, the points were within their grasp until the dying minutes and Daly was positive afterwards.
“We had a chance to get a draw or maybe win it. We gave away a soft goal and missed a few frees. Some days you get them and maybe in other games we got them. It just didn’t break for us today.”
Daly’s description of the solitary goal of the game, which came in the 37th minute, as ‘soft’ was apt. A ball dropping from the clouds looked comfortable for Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan, but he fumbled and Niall Moran nipped in to bundle the ball home and boost Limerick’s hopes.
But Dublin’s response was encouraging. Between the 40th and 43rd minutes they hit four points, McCrabbe firing two and Simon Lambert and John McCaffrey clipping over one apiece. Impressive youngster Liam Rushe was in the thick of that burst, his switch out to the half-forward line enabling him to unleash his pace and trickery to create openings.
That put Dublin 0-10 to 1-6 ahead, yet the gap between the sides was never going to extend to something more sizeable than that. Moran, the most impressive forward on view, led the fight for Limerick by grabbing a brace that had them back in front, 1-8 to 0-10 by the 52nd minute. A free from McCrabbe tied matters again in the 57th minute, but Limerick were competent enough to close out the match in the final exchanges.
The opening half had been a close affair, the sides trading points to stand locked at 0-6 apiece midway through. Dublin parachuted David O’Callaghan into their starting line-up for the first time this season, but he looked rusty and couldn’t escape the clutches of a Limerick defence in which Stephen Lucey and Brian Geary provided a strong spine. There were signs of O’Callaghan’s menace in the 0-2 he nabbed in the first-half, while McCrabbe’s freetaking was generally assured.
For Limerick, their attack was the greatest source of concern. Dublin defended with determination, particularly Stephen Hiney and Ruairí Treanor, but Limerick’s forward still cut through for plenty openings. A total of 15 wides will worry McCarthy, and only Moran and newcomer Brian O’Sullivan managed to shine. Around the middle there was the heartening sight of Bruff youngster Paul Browne adapting well to the intercounty game with a solid outing.
Scorers for Limerick: N Moran 1-4 (0-1f, 0-1 sideline), A O’Shaughnessy 0-6 (0-6f), B O’Sullivan 0-1.
Scorers for Dublin: A McCrabbe 0-8 (0-5f, 0-1 ‘65), D O’Callaghan 0-2, S Lambert, J McCaffrey 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: B Murray; M O’Riordan, S Lucey, T Condon; S Hickey, B Geary, S Walsh; D O’Grady, P Browne; W McNamara, N Moran, B O’Sullivan; A O’Shaughnessy, D Breen, D Ryan.
Subs: G O’Mahony for Condon (blood) (17), Condon for O’Mahony (20), G Mulcahy for Ryan (28), G O’Mahony for Condon (42), R McCarthy for McNamara (50) DUBLIN: A Nolan; R Treanor, T Brady, S Hiney; M O’Brien, M Carton, D O’Reilly; S Durkan, J McCaffrey; S Lambert, L Ryan, A McCrabbe; D O’Callaghan, D Curtin, L Rushe.
Subs: P Kelly for O’Reilly (20), P Carton for Curtin (31), G Maguire for Nolan (57), D Treacy for Durkan (67).
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).