Despite lining out without their Loughgiel contingent, the Glensmen took the fight straight to their opponents and, had they pressed home their advantage earlier, might have been out of sight by half-time.
However, they faced a different Limerick after the break and, once the hosts started to contest every ball, they chewed into the lead and got their breakthrough when sub Dave Breen bagged the game’s only goal with 15 minutes remaining.
Neil McManus opened the scoring, Séamus Hickey’s equalised and Shane McNaughton restored the visitors’ lead after before Graeme Mulcahy and Hickey put Limerick in front. After McManus and Declan Hannon exchanged frees, a second McManus free and Stephen Beattie had Antrim ahead. Shane Dowling tied the game up again but McManus, Conor Carson, KB McShane, Beattie and two McManus frees found the target before Hannon broke the sequence. McManus’s penalty, tipped over by Aaron Murphy, and Matthew Donnelly stretched Antrim’s advantage to eight but Hannon and Dowling’s free reduced the half-time gap to 0-13 to 0-8.
Hannon replied to McManus’s free and then added three before McManus struck one back. After Paul Browne, Hannon’s sideline cut and Hickey had the sides level, sub Paddy Doherty put the Glensmen back in front but Breen pulled to the net immediately after. Despite Karl Stewart’s reply, James Ryan, Hannon, Browne and Niall Moran tied up the result before PJ O’Connell and McManus’s free ended the scoring.
Scorers for Limerick: D Hannon 0-9 (4f, 1 s/l), S Hickey 0-4, D Breen 1-0, S Dowling (1f), P Browne 0-2 each, G Mulcahy, J Ryan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Antrim: N McManus 0-10 (5f, 1 pen), S Beattie 0-2, S McNaughton, C Carson, KB McShane, M Donnelly, P Doherty, K Stewart, PJ O’Connell 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: A Murphy; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; W McNamara, D O’Grady, G O’Mahony; J Ryan, P O’Brien; D Hannon, S Hickey, P Browne; G Mulcahy, K Downes, S Dowling.
Subs: D Breen for P O’Brien (ht), S Tobin for K Downes (57), Niall Moran for S Dowling (62), A Breen for G Mulcahy (68).
ANTRIM: R McGarry; A Graffin, C Carson, B McFall; S McCrory, N McAuley, C McKinley; M Donnelly, C Laverty; S Beattie, K Stewart, E McLoskey; N McManus, KB McShane, S McNaughton.
Subs: M Gethens for B McFall (inj 32), C McFall for S Beattie (45), P Doherty for KB McShane (47), PJ O’Connell for C Laverty (53), D McClean for E McLoskey (61).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).