Yesterday’s contest against Carlow was supposed to be the second formality of a schedule that began with clashes against the Division 1B outsiders Antrim. But, just as they did against the Saffron county three weeks ago, they escaped from the Gaelic Grounds with more relief at having survived rather than satisfaction with how they managed to claim victory.
That, however, was tempered with the loss of skipper Donal O’Grady who had to retire before half time with a broken collar-bone.
Unlike their previous outing, where they found some focus during a much-improved second-half, this win was built on three goals before the break that dented Carlow’s conviction. When two of them arrived in just over a minute coming up to the break, it led to a string of wides from the visitor’s attack which had been very economical up to then and left the hosts still enjoying an undeserved lead at the break.
That should have been the signal for a wind-assisted breeze through the second half and, while they had patiently extended their advantage to seven by the three-quarter mark, there was little to convince in Limerick’s play. When Carlow finally got their break with Craig Doyle’s goal six minutes from time, Limerick were forced on to the back foot and were lucky to see the corner forward scuff the chance to belt home an equaliser with the last attack of the game.
Carlow’s early efforts to build up a two-point lead were wiped out when Declan Hannon goaled a 20m free but Shane Kavanagh’s three frees and Jack Kavanagh had them back front before Hannon pounced on a fumbled clearance to whip home. Worse was to follow for the visitors when Seanie Tobin doubled on a Graeme Mulcahy delivery but they picked themselves up despite missing a run of chances for Kavanagh’s free to leave them trailing 3-2 to 0-8 at the break.
Although Limerick upped the pace to widen the gap by three within five minutes of the restart, it sagged long enough for a pair of Carlow replies. Still, three Hannon strikes in a row gave them some degree of comfort before Doyle doubled a Kavanagh free to the net and then followed up with a point to leave Limerick defending a vulnerable lead right up to Cathal McAllister’s whistle.
Scorers for Limerick: D Hannon 2-6 (1-4f), S Tobin 1-0, S Hickey , G Mulcahy, P O’Brien, A Breen 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow: S Kavanagh 0-9 (7fs), C Doyle 1-2, S Murphy, J Kavanagh 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: A Murphy; A Dempsey, R McCarthy, T Condon; C King, D O’Grady, G O’Mahony; P Browne, P O’Brien; D Hannon, S Hickey, D Breen; G Mulcahy, N Moran, S Tobin.
Subs: W McNamara for D O’Grady (inj 21), K Downes for N Moran (ht), J Ryan for G O’Mahony (49), A Breen for S Tobin (52), S Dowling for G Mulcahy (66).
CARLOW: N Roberts; HP O’Brien, E Nolan, D Shaw; J O’Hara, R Coady, Derek Byrne; M Brennan, E Coady; S Murphy, S Kavanagh, J Kavanagh; P Nolan, JM Nolan, C Doyle.
Subs: Diarmuid Byrne for Derek Byrne (41), P Coady for J Kavanagh (45), A Gaul for JM Nolan (52), D Galwey for J O’Hara (58).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).