Limerick’s promotion push gathers pace

LIMERICK’S unblemished record in their new environs of Division 2 of the Allianz NHL was maintained at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday and they remain on course for the lucrative rewards of promotion and a final placing.

However this was no leisurely stroll for the home team. Laois hurled with spirit as they challenged vigorously for the honours. They forced the issue with a vibrant opening and but for faulty shooting, would have been substantially further ahead than the 0-9 to 0-8 lead enjoyed at the break.

In the second half, Limerick made Laois rue those missed chances to overtake their opponents but found the O’Moore men difficult to shake off.

There were almost 45 minutes played in the second half due to a prolonged stoppage after Laois netminder Patrick Mullaney sustained a neck injury after the break and all the way until the finish, Limerick had to remain focused. It was not the most sparkling of matches or the most sparkling of performances by the Shannonsiders. Manager Donal O’Grady was in agreement with that evaluation during his post-match summary.

“We didn’t play well today and didn’t play well in our last game against Westmeath. We seem to dominate teams for a while but then sit back. We could have been smarter on the ball and we took wrong options other times. We got the goal after half-time but we didn’t push on.”

Any suggestions that the series of tests in Division 2 should be simple for Limerick to pass are dispelled by O’Grady.

“It’s going to be a struggle to get out of Division 2. Laois are a good side and I’m not sure was the five points in it at the finish was fair to them. But the result was very important as the ramifications of losing would have been massive in terms of trying to get out of the division.”

For Laois manager Brendan Fennelly there were plenty causes for regret.

“After a quarter of an hour there, I could see we were easily as good as Limerick. It was just a matter of pressing on but we didn’t have the belief to do that. We should have gone in further ahead at half-time but hit poor wides. We need more scoring power particularly a goalscoring threat.”

Laois settled to the rhythm of the game quickly and sprinted 0-4 to 0-1 in front by the 13th minute, with the spine of their attack, Willie Hyland and Owen Holohan, were displaying promise. Limerick then produced a period of resurgence with Richie McCarthy, who was their outstanding forward on the day, leading the fightback and they had restored parity at 0-4 apiece by the 21st minute. Then Limerick suffered a couple of setbacks with Pat Tobin’s goalbound drive blocked smartly by Mullaney before they lost the services of Niall Moran after he incurred a neck injury.

“He got a shoulder and it affected his neck,” revealed O’Grady afterwards. “It turned out there was a muscle pulled in his neck so he couldn’t turn to see what was happening.”

The teams traded points until the interval but Laois should have had a greater return from their attacking play. Their impressive midfielder Sean Burke nudged them 0-9 to 0-8 ahead at the break but Limerick were glad to still be within touching distance.

Limerick pounced for a priceless goal early in the second half when Kevin Downes charged down the middle and offloaded for Pat Tobin to crisply dispatch to the net. However they gained no momentum as there was a lengthy delay for treatment to be administered to Mullaney after he rushed out to challenge Tobin.

Laois recovered well from that blow and when substitute Eoin Costelloe drilled over a point in the 63rd minute, they were only 1-12 to 0-14 adrift. However Limerick delivered when it mattered with the inspirational Seamus Hickey in defence and McCarthy on song in attack as he lashed over four late points.

Scorers for Limerick: R McCarthy 0-8 (3fs); P Tobin 1-2; S Hickey, P Browne 0-2 each; D O’Grady, B Geary (1f), J Ryan, T O’Brien 0-1.

Scorers for Laois: W Hyland 0-6 (4fs); O Holohan 0-3; J Walsh, S Burke 0-2 each; B Dunne, E Costelloe, C Murray 0-1.

LIMERICK: N Quaid; D Reale, G O’Mahoney, T Condon; S Hickey, B Geary, D Breen; D O’Grady, P Browne; N Moran, R McCarthy, J Ryan; P Tobin, S Tobin, K Downes.

Subs: T O’Brien for Moran (inj) (25), A O’Shaughnessy for Tobin (51), P McNamara for Downes (68), D Ryan for P Tobin (70).

LAOIS: P Mullaney; JA Delaney, B Campion, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, B Galvin; J Walsh, S Burke; B Dunne, W Hyland, C Murray; J Purcell, O Holohan, J Brophy.

Subs: N Foyle for Purcell (25), E Reilly for Mullaney (inj) (40), E Costelloe for Burke (53), Purcell for Dunne (64).

Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).

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