Last year, it was a draw in Tullamore and on Saturday night Brian Whelehan’s Faithful side inflicted a first defeat of the year on Limerick to leave promotion between Wexford and Waterford.
While there was a goal between the sides at the end in the floodlit Gaelic Grounds, there was no smash and grab victory from Offaly.
Eight unanswered points midway through the second half steered Whelehan’s men past the Limerick challenge.
It was a Limerick challenge fought with just 14 men for the entirety of the game, with All-Star full-forward Shane Dowling shown a straight red card in the second minute for an-of-the-ball incident.
It was a dismissal that left Limerick boss TJ Ryan shaking his head in disbelief. “I am totally shocked. We will have a look at it and I’ve no more to say on it,” Ryan said.
“In fairness to our guys, they worked the ball through the lines well, but it [the sending off] just took its toll in the second half and at critical times we had some bad wides,” said the Limerick manager.
Undeterred, Limerick made the early inroads and led 0-4 to no score after 11 minutes. Those early exchanges were pretty much a shootout between respective free-takers Shane Dooley and Sean Tobin (who took over from the dismissed Dowling).
Limerick then pushed further clear and led 0-8 to 0-4 after 25 minutes, with David Breen, Donal O’Grady, James Ryan and Tobin all on the mark as the home side opted to fire over from distance, with Offaly winning all battles in front of goal with their extra man.
It was to be the 26th minute when Offaly got their first score from play and, when it came, it was a goal from Emmet Nolan. Offaly built on the impetus, with Shane Kinsella and Dan Currams pointing for a 1-7 to 0-8 lead.
However, Limerick brought a 0-12 to 1-7 lead to the half-time dressing room, with O’Grady, Cian Lynch and Paul Browne scoring points.
If the first half was sluggish, the second 35 minutes opened at full pace with seven scores in under four minutes. Sean Tobin had two from play for Limerick to push the home side 0-16 to 1-11 clear.
However, the presence of sub Joe Bergan and the growing influence of Shane Dooley from open play saw Offaly grow in stature. They were 0-18 to 1-12 in arrears in the 50th minute, but then took over and hit eight points on the trot to turn the game on its head. Subs Stephen Quirke, Dermot Mooney and Bergin were all on the mark as Limerick faded.
Seanie O’Brien halted the Offaly run. but there was no denying Whelehan’s men. Limerick hit three of the last four points but there was no threat on the Offaly goal and the visitors left the Gaelic Grounds the happier camp.
Scorers for Limerick: S Tobin 0-9 (5frees), P Browne 0-4, D O’Grady 0-2, D Breen, J Ryan, C Lynch, D Hannon (free), S O’Brien, D Reidy (free) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 0-9 (5frees, 2 ‘65), E Nolan 1-2, J Bergin 0-3, D Currams, D Mooney, S Quirke 0-2 each, S Kinsella 0-1.
LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, S Hickey; C Allis, D Hannon, D Morrissey; J Ryan, P Browne; D Breen, D O’Grady, C Lynch; J Fitzgibbon, S Dowling, S Tobin.
Subs: S O’Brien for S Hickey (45), D Reidy for J Fitzgibbon (49), A Breen for O’Grady (65), T Morrissey for S Tobin (68).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; S Wynne, D Shortt, D King; C Parlon, E Murphy, C Egan; P Camon, S Ryan; E Nolan, J Mulrooney, S Kinsella; S Dooley’ D Currams, B Carroll.
Subs: J Bergin for J Mulrooney (24), S Quirke for B Carroll (33) , D Mooney for E Murphy (51), S Cleary for Kinsella (63).
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).